Tag Archives: Autumn

Pollo Sospetto

pollo_sospetto

Vaguely inspired by Felicity Cloake’s cacciatore recipe, I’ve dug out this perennial favourite, which has arrived by way of a stained and crumpled scrap of paper, tucked into my copy of The Encyclopaedia of Italian Cooking.

It’s neither one thing nor the other, but quite tasty and quite easy. To serve four you’ll need a larg frying pan, and into it chuck:

  • 75g pancetta, cubed, frying gently until the fat has rendered and the bacon has gone crunchy
  • 500g boned skinned chicken thighs, halved down the middle – do these on a high heat, until they’re lightly coloured on the outside, rescue with a slotted spoon and set aside (the middles of the chicken pieces will be raw but don’t worry, we’ll fix that shortly)
  • 500g total diced celery, carrot and onion (or whatever aromatics you have to hand) plus four smashed cloves garlic, reduce heat, fry until soft and colouring, you might need a splodge of vegetable oil if there wasn’t enough in the bacon and chicken
  • add 125mL white wine, and stir like mad, to incorporate any of the built up yumminess on the bottom of the pan, and then return everything else
  • add enough boiled water to cover, plus one 450g tin chopped toms, drained of their juice
  • on top of that, four sprigs of rosemary, around two dozen kalamata olives (stones in), and a generous grind of pepper
  • bring to the boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 mins (45 if you’re using whole thighs with bones in)
  • remove the chicken pieces with a slotted spoon
  • turn up the heat and reduce by half (you could stir in a tablespoon of crème fraîche at this point)
  • serve with polenta or rice
  • this will be improved by an overnight stay in the fridge

Mouldy Quinces

Oops. I’d forgotten about the six quinces on top of the cupboard, and they were looking a bit iffy.

Not to worry. Quinces are such vicious rock hard bastards, that they can be salvaged, and preserved for another day. After peeling and coring it turns out only one is properly rotten, and there’s about 700g of salvageable flesh.

Cut up into one inch pieces, the flesh is thrown into the stockpot, with 700mL water, and 100g of caster sugar. Doesn’t look very appealing, but brought to the boil, stirring to make sure the sugar has dissolved, and reduced to a simmer for an hour.

After an hour the pieces are soft, and slightly translucent. The flat smells wonderful.

Now, I reckon I’m going to use this stuff in about a week from now, so I wasn’t particularly stringent with the sterilisation; just swished the contents of a freshly boiled kettle around the Kilner jar, and that was it. The fruit gets put into the jar with a slotted spoon, and the jar gets a good shake so the contents are packed down.

I added another 150g of sugar to the remaining 300mL of liquid and brought to the boil. Although quinces are packed with pectin, there’s not enough in this stuff to make actual jelly, so it’s really just syrup I want. So that gets poured over the fruit and the jar is sealed.

Now awaiting its fate.

(If the quinces were less mouldy, I could have kept the skins and cores, and boiled them up, at which point there would certainly have been enough pectin in the liquid to set into jelly. But not this time.)


Membrillo

Most of the time, I use this space on WordPress to keep notes, which can later be used to jog my memory, or at least accurately populate a shopping list. And then sometimes, it seems to encourage me to do foolish things that take time and make mess. This is one of those foolish things, but as foolish things go, it’s damned tasty.

You will need a copy of Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book, for therein are many wonderful things, including this. The quinces came from The Creaky Shed. They were very furry (a polite way of saying a bit mouldy) so needed a good wash and scrub.

They need to be hacked up, and this requires a certain amount of caution as they are hard and slippery. In the end a large serrated bread knife seemed to do the trick. You can see how rapidly they discoloured.

Icky bits discarded, and thence into the pot.

They need to be brought to the boil, and simmered until soft. This may take an hour. It may take three. So far so good. This isn’t too hard, you think. This isn’t too messy or demanding, you think. Now, you’ve got to push those stewed quinces through a sieve. This is a lot of work, and the results look like baby food, or possibly something else baby related.

In the end, 1.5 kilos of quinces, minus icky bits, yielded 864 grams of pulp. Back into the pot with an equal weight of sugar.

And feel slightly scared as it starts to resemble lava. Regular stirring to avoid burning on the bottom. If you need to destroy The One Ring, now is your chance.

Finally, heave it into a dish, lined with baking paper.

After an overnight stay in the oven at 50°C (central heating turned off) it comes out darker.

And then finally sliced up, with the baking paper left on the underneath. Mrs Grigson reckons it ought to keep six months in an airtight container, but somehow I don’t think it will survive to the other side of Christmas.


DIY Baked Beans

This is very easy, but takes time. Elapsed time that is – there’s barely ten minutes’ work but it is spread out over twenty four hours.

  • 250g dried Haricot beans
  • 400g total of diced carrots, onion and celery (or whatever you happen to have to hand)
  • one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes (with the juice!)
  • a handful (75g) of finely diced bacon
  • some herbs (I used a bunch of fresh thyme on this occasion)

Here’s what I do:

  1. soak the beans overnight in cold water (won’t hurt if they stay soaking until you get back from work the following day)
  2. put the beans in a change of water, and bring to a savage boil for fifteen minutes, reduce to a gentle bubble and leave for 45 minutes, but an hour won’t hurt – you could chuck in a bay leaf if you wanted to keep them company in the simmering phase
  3. meanwhile, gently fry the bacon in a heavy casserole until it’s brown and most of the fat has oozed out
  4. add the chopped veg, and a glug of olive oil, and continue to fry (you could use butter instead of olive oil for a more North European flavour)
  5. let the veg gently fry until they’re soft, and the onion is going gold around the edges; probably a good twenty minutes
  6. now is probably a good time to get the oven going at 150°C
  7. by now the beans should be starting to soften up, so drain them, and add to the casserole, reserving the cooking liquid
  8. add the tin of tomatoes, and then enough of the cooking liquid to cover
  9. there’s probably enough salt in the bacon, but taste, and add a touch more if you feel it’s warranted
  10. add the herbs, grind over some black pepper, give the pot a good stir and consign it to the oven

It will need around two hours. Not only are the beans continuing to cook, they’re soaking up liquid, and the rate at which they do this is known only unto themselves. So, keep an eye. If the liquid looks low, top up with some water from a freshly boiled kettle. At the ninety minute mark, have a taste – the beans need to be cooked through, so no grittiness. (Otherwise they will expand in your stomach and make you explode, at least that’s what my grandmother told me when I was small.)

Serve up as a posh side to sausages or duck, or a mid week supper in its own right.

Or wait ’til nobody’s watching and scoff it on toast with cheese on top.

You could of course add stuff. A splash of Worcester sauce wouldn’t hurt. You could replace the bacon with chorizo, and maybe add some garlic as well. Once you get going with the sausages and duck it becomes full blown cassoulet, which is glorious in its own right, but lacks the comforting simplicity of this dish.


Duck Legs

My reaction, on tasting duck for the first time, was to wonder why we hadn’t hunted it to extinction. A damned tasty animal, be it roasted, fried, stewed, or, quiver, in confit. (More about that another time.)

Duck breasts – maigret de canard – are now fashionable and expensive. By comparison, duck legs are cheap. (And there is normally a spectacular glut of them at the start of Autumn, so keep your eyes peeled.)

Anyway, I used:

  • two duck legs (about 400g)
  • three King Edward potatoes (about 500g) but any kind of spud is fine
  • one large onion
  • half a bunch of thyme

Get the oven going at 180ºC. (I’m using a fan forced, so your mileage will vary.)

Find a small roasting tin you can put on the hob without it buckling, get it hot, and put the duck legs in, skin side down. No oil required. Turn the heat down to the lowish side of medium, so they’re gently sizzling, and starting to ooze fat.

Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes – no need to peel – and cut them into small pieces, about 2cm thick. If you just chop each potato into 2cm slices, and then divide those as you see fit, you’ll be fine. By the time you’ve cut up the potatoes, the duck will have oozed a layer of fat onto the bottom of the roasting tin. A good ten minutes or so: do check after about five that the skin isn’t going brown, as we’re just after a light gold colour.

Put the potatoes in and gently toss them in the hot fat. You may need to remove the duck for a moment in order to do this. Yeah. Hot fat. Be careful. Gluttony is transient, third degree burns aren’t.

Return the duck to the tin (skin side up, with the thyme spread out underneath it) and even out the potato into a single layer. Salt and pepper, and then into the oven. Check from time to time, and move the spuds around so they don’t stick. Inevitably some of them will. If everything seems to be crisping too fast, maybe turn the oven down a whisker.

After forty-five minutes, slice the onion lengthwise into eight segments – more if it’s huge – and peel. Pop these segments into the roasting tin, and roll them around in the fat. (If we put the onion in at the beginning it would burn.)

It should be done after another forty-five minutes, so ninety minutes in total. It’s difficult to overcook duck legs, but if they’re not in long enough, the meat will be cooked, but the connective tissue won’t have broken down, and they’ll be tough as boot leather. If the pieces of potato are too small, they may start to burn before the duck is done.

Once done (you can double-check by piercing the thickest part of the duck leg with a metal skewer and confirming the juices run clear) remove everything from the roasting tin onto plates, and deglaze the roasting tin with a splash of red wine or dry vermouth, to produce a tiny amount of sharp tasty sauce. Pour over and tuck in.

Note. The eating of duck legs is not a dignified process. Suggest you not serve these if the bishop is coming to tea.


Baked Figs

Just about anything is improved by redcurrant jelly and port. (As mentioned elsewhere, it is a particularly fine sauce for steak, or game.) Tonight it’s the turn of some rather decent figs that happened to be in the shop. As I understand it, it’s the tail end of the season, but there are some decent ones to be had.

I used:

  • 4 figs (allow two per person)
  • 60mL port (more heresy – I used some vintage port, as it had been open a while)
  • 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly (it’s a little hard to wrangle out of the jar, so don’t worry too much if you’re not exact)

Get the oven going. I cranked my fan forced up to 180ºC.

Split the figs in two. You will need very gentle pressure from a very sharp knife to do this in a dignified way.

You will need to dissolve the jelly. You could either push it through a coarse sieve, or pop it into a small saucepan with the port, and bring to the boil. Doesn’t matter if there are a few lumps.

The figs are going to be baked face down, so find an oven proof dish small enough for them to fit snugly, side by side. Butter the dish to be on the safe side.

Place the figs in the dish, face down, and pour over the sauce. There should be about half a centimetre in the dish, we’re not trying to drown them.

The oven should have warmed up by now, so pop them in, and let them go for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them. If the sauce reduces too much, it will burn. The figs are done when they’re just starting to wrinkle on the outside, with a hint of shiny translucency. (But figs don’t need a lot of cooking, so 20 mins will probably do.)

Saint Nigel reckons you should serve them on brioche. I see nothing wrong with this. We once had a bread and butter pudding made with brioche, and one might even be able to invent a diabolical variation involving figs and port.

My preferences are a little more common. Vanilla ice cream, or tonight, custard from the shop, spooned cold out of the pot. Nice custard, with vanilla seeds, but shop bought nonetheless.

Don’t forget to save any excess sauce for putting on ice cream tomorrow!

Variations

You could replace the port/redcurrant with lemon juice, butter, sugar, and either half a vanilla pod, or a bashed up cinnamon stick.

Tinned Figs

This won’t work with tinned figs. These are rather nice, in their own way, and are best served with a splodge of mascarpone and a dollop of strong honey.

Venison Sausages

Grumpy? Maybe it’s because it’s cold, wet and miserable, or perhaps there’s just not enough sausage in your life. This is based on a similar idea where Saint Nigel roasts thinly sliced spuds, and then slips some mackerel fillets on just before the end. In this case, I’m using venison sausages, although any kind of sausage is good.

To prick or not to prick? Some people get very passionate about this: see Matthew Fort’s articles. Out of scientific curiosity, I pricked half of the sausages, but couldn’t tell once they were done.

I used:

  • 6 sausages + 500g charlottes, sliced about 5mm thick; no need to peel
  • salt+pepper
  • you could add thyme, garlic, sage, bay leaves etc – I popped two unpeeled gloves of garlic in

Now, I don’t know how fatty your sausages are, nor how thickly you sliced your spuds, so there is no foolproof procedure for what happens next – St Delia would doubtless be horrified. Start with 45 minutes at 160ºC (fan forced temp) and then take a look. The sausages will most likely be done, but the spuds will need a bit longer, pick one of the larger pieces and taste it to make sure. Pop the sausages to one side (on a plate covered with foil is a good start) and put the spuds back in, turning the oven up to 200ºC, and see how they’re looking after 15 minutes. Don’t despair if they take longer, just slip the sausages back on top for a few minutes to warm them up, if necessary.

The final phase is straightforward. Dole out the bangers and spuds, tip out any excess fat from the tin (not down the drain!) and add a splash of port plus a generous spoon of redcurrant jelly. Tonight I used 30mL of port and about a tablespoon of redcurrent jelly, but feel free to mess around with the proportions. The port will hiss and spit, and the jelly will sit there unhelpfully, so stir like mad. (Or you could melt the jelly into the port in another saucepan if you don’t mind the extra washing up.) The resulting sauce/gravy is just the right thing, although might need to be pushed through a coarse sieve to get any recalcitrant lumps of jelly and spud out. (Munch them when nobody’s watching.)

Duck Liver Pate

Just when I think all the washing up is done, and the kitchen’s looking clean, I get the urge to do this. Oh, well.

This is fairly close to the procedure described in Appetite, plus some notes of my own. I used…

  • 400g duck livers (there were no chicken livers today due to a “supplier problem”, but then, then they had duck livers, and I couldn’t resist)
  • 120g butter (40g for frying, the rest chopped into slices)
  • 100mL single cream
  • salt, pepper, Armagnac

The livers need to be soaked in enough milk to cover them for about half an hour. They will be fried after this, so it’s worth draining them quite thoroughly. I have been warned to cut out any green bits and dark spots, but never noticed any.

Getting ready

The livers get fried in 40g of the butter, as hot as it will go without turning the butter brown.

s-DSC00778

The livers, plus cream and the rest of the butter get hurled into the blender, with salt and pepper and zapped into mush. Slater mentions getting the butter soft first, I just slice it up, and figure that nestling against hot livers for a few seconds will do any softening required.

When deglazing the pan I slipped with the Armagnac. Then I slipped again; just to make sure. No point in flambé – just whack in the blender and zap again. This way, we hope some alcohol makes it into the pâté.

s-DSC00780

The next phase is vital: push the mixture through a sieve. It only needs to be a coarse sieve, so will only take about a minute or two of pushing it through with the same rubber spatula with which you emptied the blender. Several lifetimes can go by if you use a fine sieve, and I’m not sure I notice the benefit. What you will notice after is lots of fibrous chewy stuff trapped in the sieve, as opposed to being in the pâté.

Once you get to this stage, you could whack the whole lot into a terrine, let it cool, and seal with some melted butter about half an hour later. This looks very pretty. My more prosaic approach is to line a tupper with cling film, pour the mix into that, fold the edges over, and put the lid on. This way the whole lot comes out in one easy block.

s-DSC00781

Either way, the results should go in the fridge for a few hours to set.

(Note from 2013: not sure there’s enough information here to cook this: so pick up a copy of Appetite.)

Spuds and Mackerel

I bought a pink silicone egg flip today. It looks, well, a trifle girly. Which makes it all the more odd, as when it was run up on the register, the lady says to me, “sorry, I’ve got to confirm you’re over eighteen”, before bursting into giggles. I says, “no problem, I know that even now, the estates are being stalked by gangs of hoody wearing teens, armed with egg whisks and slotted spoons, and it’s only right you should ask.” It’s almost not worth mentioning that the slightest smidgeon of a possibility that I looked under eighteen left me immeasurably chuffed.

Anyway, I’d like to point out that I am not a Nigel Slater Junkie, but he does write good recipes. Here is something else I like.

As usual, he’s infuriatingly imprecise, as Mr Barnes has pointed out, so here are my notes:

  • allow 200g of fish and 300g of potatoes per person
  • as long as the potatoes are medium sized (Mr Barnes: you’ll want them to be 105mm along the long axis, and 207mm in circumference) and not too thick skinned, the variety doesn’t seem to matter; tonight’s supper was done with some King Edwards
  • after 30 mins of roasting the potatoes, get in with some barbecue tongs and rearrange them to allow maximum opportunities for crisping

I’m afraid sheer unmitigated greed prevented me from taking photos until everything had been consumed.

Ahem.

Parmigiana di Melanzane

Another gloomy day, so something from the Med is required to cheer it up. This is a hybrid of quite a few recipes – purists will doubtless shudder – but I’ll get my supper earlier.

  • two large aubergines
  • a litre of Tomato Goop (see earlier notes – I’ve added a teaspoon of dried oregano and half a teaspoon of dried basil)
  • 250g grated cows’ mozzarella
  • parmesan to taste (I’m a noted Parmesan Pig, so won’t embarrass myself by revealing the actual quantities)

This is what you do.

  1. Slice the aubergines lengthways into 5mm slices, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt, and then put under a hot grill, ’til slightly brown and sizzling
  2. layer the aubergines, cheese and sauce in a baking dish – try and plan it so you end up with about two or three layers (note that the aubergine slices will shrink when you grill them)
  3. bake for around an three quaters of an hour at 160C, and put a layer of grated Parmesan on top about ten minutes before the end
  4. serve with more Parmesan

s-DSC00749

Caveats

A few things to note.

  • you don’t need to peel the aubergines
  • you don’t need to salt the aubergines
  • aubergines are oil hungry – you will need to use a brush – and rapidly at that – in order to get the oil onto them
  • some recipes tell you to flour and deep fry the aubergine slices – I think this just results in the final product absolutely swimming in oil
  • you could make a very simple tomato sauce just using tinned tomatoes, garlic and onions, plus a few favourite herbs – some Italian delis will make this stuff in bulk on the premises and sell it in little tubs
  • don’t use fancy buffalo mozzarella, what you want is the hard mozzarella made from cows’ milk: if it comes pre grated in a plastic bag, all the better – you can just pop the remains in the freezer

Variations

The following ingredients will add joy and happiness.

  • about a dozen anchovy fillets
  • a handful of chopped up black olives

Jane Grigson says not to even bother with grilling the aubergine – merely blanch the slices for two minutes in boiling water. (Her Vegetable Book lists some interesting regional variations as well.)

Mrs Grigson also very sensibly points out that once layered in the baking dish, this can be popped into the freezer instead of the oven, and brought out on another date.