This week I 'av been mainly eating...

Hot Cross buns

The recipe's here..



If you go down to the woods...

Wild Garlic

If you go down to the woods... ...it's likely that you'll find some wild garlic. Or, if you've a good friend who house-sits where there's a woodland garden, you may be lucky enough to be brought some, like I was.

The leaves are what we're after here; they look very much like lily-of-the-valley but are no relation being part of the allium family. Wild garlic, or ramsons as they are also known, are milder in taste than bulb varieties of garlic and can be used simply in a salad or as a vegetable. Had I have done that though, it would have made for a very short posting here!

Here's some other uses that sprang into my tiny brain; not recipes as such, more general ideas with instructions:

Wild Garlic, Chicken and Noodle Soup

Wild Garlic, Chicken and Noodle Soup

A great way to use up a bit of leftover chicken.

Take a pint and a half of home-made chicken stock and bring it to the boil, add a handful of noodles and leave it until the noodles are nearly soft. Add sliced wild garlic leaves and shredded cooked chicken. Thicken slightly with half a teaspoon of potato flour mixed in a little water and then season it with salt, ground white pepper and, if you fancy it, a splash of light soy sauce.

Wild Garlic Pakora

Wild Garlic Pakora

Great for buffets or in a mixed Indian platter for a starter.

Chop some cooked potato very finely and add very finely sliced (chiffonade) wild garlic leaves, finely chopped chilli, small amounts of ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and garam masala. Add fresh coriander too if you have it to hand, then mix all the ingredients together. I used new potatoes and it needed a little gram flour adding with a drop of water to get it all to bind together; I don't think that you'd need this with old potato. Form the mix into small balls or patties.

In a separate bowl mix around 4 heaped tablespoons of gram flour with 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander, a little turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala. Mix to a thick batter with water. Coat the garlic and potato balls with the batter and deep fry at 170°C until nicely browned. Drain on kitchen paper before serving.

Wild Garlic Tortilla or Fritata
- OK, so it's an Omelette!

Wild Garlic

Mix chopped potato and chopped wild garlic with a few beaten eggs and season. Cook in oil in a frying pan until nearly set, then top with cheese and finish under a hot grill. Serve it hot or cold, but the garlic flavour comes through best when it's cold. Oh, by cold I mean at room temperature - so take it out of the fridge a little while before serving it.

Needless to say, the more I use this, the more ideas spring to mind...
...Savoury wild garlic and cheese scones or muffins, wild garlic pesto, wild garlic souffle, steak with wild garlic 'bearnaise' sauce - Mmm yes, finely sliced wild garlic in a hollandaise sauce, used in a classic Eggs Benedict or Florentine.

Doh, now I've gone and made myself hungry... ...Waiter!



Pear and Almond Tart recipe

Pear and Almond Tart

This is the last of the three pastry dishes that I made last weekend. Coincidentally, it's the dessert that may mate had at our local restaurant when he took his wife out for his wedding anniversary on Thursday. I guess that theirs would be made with poached fresh pears; mine's a cheats version using tinned ones, but if you want to poach fresh pears and use them in this recipe, that's fine. I would do as well, if it was for a special occasion.

I made this tart in the Silverwood 'Tarte Maison' Tin that my kids bought for my birthday. It can be eaten hot or cold, but I think that it's nicest cold

Ingredients

Pastry

8oz (225g) flour
2½oz (70g) butter
2½oz (70g) lard
1oz (30g) sugar
A Pinch of salt
Milk or 2 egg yolks to mix.

Filling

4oz (110g) Ground Almond
1oz (110g) Self-raising flour
4oz (110g) Sugar
4oz (110g) Butter
2 Eggs
Poached or tinned pears

To Finish

Apricot glaze - that's 1 tablespoon of apricot jam mixed with hot water until it's runny.

Method

Add the salt to the flour and then rub in the fats until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the milk/egg a little at a time until you can form a dough. Wrap it and place it in the fridge for twenty minutes before rolling it out and lining a flan tin with it. It's a very soft dough so you may need to put it into the tin in pieces and 'patch' it together. Put it into the fridge for another twenty minutes or so to rest. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork and then line it with baking paper and beans. Bake it at 180°C for 12 minutes then remove the beans and paper and bake it for a further 5 minutes or until cooked but not too brown.

Meanwhile, beat the sugar and butter until soft and creamy, gradually 'beat in' the egg. Add a little of the flour if the mixture looks like curdling. Mix in the almonds and the ( rest of the) flour and then spread the mixture over the base of the cooked flan case. Slice the pears and fan them out on top of the almond paste. Cook it at 180°C until the top is golden. Allow it to cool a little, or to go completely cold, then glaze it.


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Onion Bhajis and Tamarind Chutney

Onion Bhaji and Tamarind Chutney

Another buffet favourite that can be made for pennies.

Onion Bhajis

8 Tablesp Gram flour (sieved)
1 Tablesp Rice flour (or SR Flour)
½ Tablesp Cumin powder
½ Tablesp Coriander powder
½ Tablsp salt
½ - 1 teasp Gram masala
¼ teasp turmeric
Chilli powder or finely chopped fresh chilli
A couple of large onions or more depending on size

Cut the onions in half and then cut a couple of times along the onion before slicing across to give thin strips about ½ inch long. Mix all the dry ingredients with water to a dropping consistency and mix in the onion. I generally cook them in my wok as I can get more in than in the fryer - cook them slowly 170°C - particularly if they are large, otherwise you'll have uncooked batter in the middle.

One word of warning, the batter will get wetter the longer it stands - the salt seems to draw liquid out of the onion, so if you are catering for large numbers, either make them in batches or have some Gram flour (and a sieve) on hand to adjust the consistency. As these are not laced with fat like the ones in the supermarket, they will dry-out inside if left for too long - the tamarind chutney soon takes care of that!

Tamarind Chutney

Just a note about tamarind: it usually comes in two forms in the UK supermarkets - either as dried seeds or pods, or as a jar of paste. The dried variety are much cheaper but need more preparation.

1 pack (200g) Dried tamarind
½ - 1 litre Water
200 - 300gm Sugar
1 Tablesp Ground roasted cumin seeds
1 Tablesp Salt (use half black salt if available)
1 teasp Chilli powder (or more!)
½ teasp Garam Masala
Plenty of finely chopped chilli (optional)

Subsequent changes to the recipe has seen the addition of 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon ground ginger and ginger which has been finely grated using a microplane grater, to taste.

Boil the water and pour it over the tamarind. Break up the block of tamarind (a potato masher is good) and keep working it to extract the seeds and paste. A quick blast in the microwave helps. Leave it to soak for at least an hour and then strain it through a strong sieve or colander. Work it well to extract all the paste from it. If it's very stubborn or thick add a little more water.

Add sugar to taste; how much you will need varies, so add it to your own taste. Now add the other ingredients and mix them in well. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

This can be used as a thick dipping sauce, or it can be thinned down until it's not much thicker than water for samosas and bhajis.

The sauce my friend John brings from the Sweet-Mart nearly blows your brains out! It's superb. This is my homage to that sauce.



Cheese and Onion Pie

I was going to save this post until later, but Robert posted the following comment on my Bacon and Egg Quiche thread:

And ear's me wiv nothing better to do and thinking about doing cheese and onion pie for the punters. This has been at the back of my mind for some time, just wondering how these Vancouverites will take to this 'posh comfort' food.

By the way; it smell good from here.

Cheese and onion pie

I think that he must be telepathic because that was one of the pastry items I made at the weekend.

It's simplicity itself and tastes great even if it doesn't look that good.

It's just a couple of chopped onions cooked in some salted boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes, then drained and mixed with about 8oz (225g) of grated strong cheese; I used a cheddar for this but a good Leicester Cheese is nice. Make pastry with the recipe here using 8oz flour, 4oz fat and ½ level teasp salt but don't bake it 'blind'. Line a greased flan tin with the pastry, prick the bottom a few times with a fork and fill it with the mixture. Wet the edges of the pastry with water. Roll out a pastry lid, put it on to of the pie and press it around the edges to seal it to the bottom. Brush milk or egg wash over it to glaze it, make a slit in the top to allow steam to escape, and cook it for about 35 minutes at 180°C (approx 350°F) until nicely brown.

I like it cold with a salad and it's great for buffets and picnics.

On the subject of baking tins, there's no better for the home cook than those made by Silverwood.



Bacon and Cheese Quiche

Quiche

There you go, I'm being posh and calling it quiche! It's really a good old bacon and cheese flan. It's a pity that so many poor imitations of this superb rich savoury egg custard are sold by supermarkets and presented to the world on numerous buffets with cheap frozen sausage rolls and those damned miniature scotch eggs.

A good quiche is all about the quality of the ingredients, there's few of them, so they all count. Use a good dry cured bacon (mild smoked if you like), good eggs, double cream not milk, and you won't go far wrong. One other thing, and a very important one, is that most recipes (including Delia) will tell you to cook the quiche at too high a temperature. I've said this before, but I'll say it again - cook the quiche at around 160°C or below; you're making a savoury custard, not an omelette!

I was fortunate to receive Jane Grigson's book "Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery", for my birthday a week or so ago. You see, it's not just me:

Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes. Remember that a quiche is a savoury custard tart; it mustn't cook too quickly or it will curdle.

I feel a bit of a fraud giving a recipe; it's not rocket science, but here's my take on it:

Pastry

6oz Plain Flour
3oz lard (or lard/butter mix)
about ¼ teasp salt
water

Rub the fat into the flour/salt until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add water a little at a time and mix until it forms a dough. In all honesty, I generally make a batch using 1lb flour, 8oz fat and 1 teaspoon of salt, in the food processor. Don't add too much liquid or the pastry will be hard - about 1½ - 2 tablespoons (ish) should be about right for 6oz flour.

Use the pastry to line a loose bottomed flan tin (approx. 7½ inch diameter) then prick the base with a fork, line it with parchment paper, fill with baking beads, or rice or dried beans, and bake it at 180°C for 15 minutes. Remove the beads and parchment and bake it for a further 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C ready for the next stage.

Filling

6 - 8oz bacon
2 - 3oz grated cheese
¾ pint double cream
3 eggs
Salt and pepper

While the pastry is cooking, fry the bacon, remove the rind and discard it and cut the bacon into small pieces. Mix the eggs and cream and season. Sprinkle the bacon over the base of the pastry followed by the cheese then fill with the egg/cream mix. I do this while the pastry case is still on the oven shelf to avoid spillage. Bake it at 160°C for 40 minutes or so until it's set.

It can be eaten warm, but according to my wife is better eaten at room temperature the following day.

Oh, and if your doing a buffet, make sure that the sausage rolls and scotch eggs are the 'Real McCoy':

Sausage rolls and scotch eggs


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Nduja

Nduja

I sometimes wonder if someone 'up there' has got something against me? When it comes to making salami, if it can go wrong, rest assured it will! At the moment I don't have my drying-fridge fully set up as, within the next few weeks, all my fridges and equipment will be moving into the bedroom recently vacated by my eldest daughter. She's just bought her own house.

OK, that's my excuse, but the real reason is that the humidifier ran out of water because I'm a lazy basket and hadn't checked it! I lose interest easily and having tasted two of the three salami I made recently and not being too impressed with the results, I'd just left things to their own devices. I've gone from one extreme to the other; fellow sausage-makers will know what I'm talking about: when you first make them you tend the flamin' salami as though its your first baby! Now, I'm totally blasé about the whole thing; fine if your experience exceeds your knowledge - but I'm the opposite when it comes to salami: my knowledge of the subject far exceeds my experience.

"What the heck are you prattling on about?" "Shurrup, and get to the sausage!"

OK, I'll come clean! All this is a roundabout way of saying that I'm not 100% happy with the Nduja I recently made.

But, I'd better start at the beginning...

...you see, in 2008 a US based sausagemaking.org forum member contacted me and offered to bring me supplies of sausage-making products that are difficult to find in the UK, as he was coming over to visit. When it came to arranging collection it turned out that he had family living within 20 miles of me and so we met to exchange goods and cash, albeit briefly. When he got back to the US, he wrote about having a spicy, fiery, spreadable salami when at Borough Market in London and he subsequently made his own version. Whether others jumped on his band-wagon or he accidentally climbed onto theirs, it seemed that for the next couple of months the food press was full of this fiery Calabrian spreadable salami called Nduja.

Now to cut a long story short (!??), I promised another forum member that I would make the salami when I could lay my hands on some Calabrian chillies. He kindly sent me a pot of them ready made up into a paste for the salami. However, because of one thing and another it was only a couple of months ago, some 18 months or so later, that it finally happened.

Imagine then, dear reader, my disappointment that the sausage-meat is nowhere near as spreadable as I would have liked; It's got the Oomph; it's got the heat that takes the 'top off your head'; it's got the, "I want some more, even though it hurts", sensation; it just hasn't got that soft spreadable, "This won't need butter", feel about it. It obviously needed fattier pork, and it certainly didn't need the couple of weeks drying at low humidity that, because I'm lazy, it got!

Now, before the Elephant and Castle 'Bar Council' start 'laughing their socks off', it's still perfectly usable. I'll use butter on the bread, use it as a pasta dressing or, even use it in dips and savoury butters. It's just that, of all my projects, this is the one where I wanted to be able to say: "It's perfect!"

Nduja


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