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is approaching that time of year again when many of us get
nervous about cooking the Christmas Dinner. For most Christmas
Dinner is still the traditional turkey and because it is often
only cooked once a year there is a tendency to be nervous,
some would say with good cause. Turkey is bigger than anything
we cook during the rest of the year and of course to make
it a special meal there are loads of vegetables and extras
like bread sauce and stuffing.
I have had my own share of disaster over the years. Perhaps
the most memorable was when the oven stopped working with
still an hour of cooking time left. Looking into a hot oven
for the cause was not an option so the bird was quickly jointed
and finished in the microwave. Not at tasty as it might have
been but at least Christmas Dinner arrived on the table ready
to eat. It was only a few days later when examining the oven
before calling out an engineer that the problem became apparent
fat from the turkey had been spilling out on to the
gas burner and had extinguished the gas. As the oven cooled
the gas started to solidify in the burner stopping it being
reignited. A quick blast with a blowtorch and the problem
was solved . . . but to late for Christmas Dinner. The moral
is, use a roasting pan that is big enough to hold your Turkey
and if there is too much liquid building up then pour some
But enough of disasters! Hub-UK has previously published
a guide on How
to cook a Roast Turkey which is well worth reading if
you are at all nervous and need help in planning what has
to be done. However it is often easier to learn by watching
rather than reading and here is a video guide by Chef Phil
Vickery, courtesy of www.britishturkey.co.uk,
showing how easily a turkey can be cooked but additionally
showing how easily it can be carved.
And if that is the turkey sorted what about your ham? Cooking
your own gammon joint could not be easier and everything you
need to know will be found in the article How
to cook a Gammon Joint.
now the dinner is under control you can turn your thoughts
to what to buy the cook in your life for a Chritsmas present.
Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk
is not a cooking or recipe book and nor is it written by a
chef! Something a little bit different. This is a story of
Seventeenth century life, love and war, the story of an orphan
who becomes the greatest cook of his age.
Based before and during the English Civil War the book paints
a picture of English life of the time. It might be described
as a historical romance but that would be misleading as there
is far more about the rise of a young boy to be a great chef
of his time than there is romance. The romance is just an
integral part of the story.
As a fan of historical novels, especially by writers such
as Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Simon Scarrow, I was
rather dubious about even reading John Saturnall's Feast.
It certainly was nothing like the stories those authors tell
and for the first few chapters, when John Saturnall is young,
I struggled. Once having committed myself to a book I always
try to finish it, as was the case here, but I was not disappointed
by my perseverance as once things got going I kept turning
pages wanting to know what happened next.
One of the reviews on Amazon (by K Mayfield) perhaps best
describes the book:
Lawrence Norfolk's elegantly written JOHN SATURNALL'S
FEAST is utterly captivating. An interest in history or
the 17th century is not necessary to become completely swept
away by the story - a testament to Norfolk's magic. One
needs only a desire to read a beautifully constructed story
of a boy who desperately struggles to stay alive in his
young life. He is the boy who emerges from a tragedy in
ancient woods only to be thrown into the kitchen of Buckland
Manor where he must earn the right to use his talent. We
cheer him on as he labours to become the greatest chef,
to create the most complicated and magnificent dish, to
oversee the most important feast. John Saturnall is the
boy who becomes a man in the face of another struggle for
the love a forbidden woman and their survival amidst his
enemies and the backdrop of the Civil War.
So if you have bought cooking books as a present in the past
and are looking for something cooking related but a little
different then this is the answer.
grabbed me about this offering from a chef was it purports
to be what he cooks at home . . . Tom Kitchin, takes us into
his home kitchen and shows us the food he cooks for friends
and family when away from his Edinburgh restaurant, The Kitchin.
I am sure he does cook some good meals at home but I doubt
he cooks meals like these every night. Having said that, and
regardless of whether it is touted as his home cooking just
as a marketing ploy, it has some great looking and interesting
recipes. Whilst many require quite a number of ingredients
and work, the recipes do look worthwhile trying. Sadly I am
yet to find a spare moment to try anything being too concerned
with my own simpler home cooking.
The book is also another fine example of the fine food photography
produced for cooking books in this country. If they were a
little bigger you could remove them from the book, frame them
and have some great pictures to hang on your kitchen or dining
room wall. The photographs were by Laura Edwards.
Certainly a book I though was worthwhile adding to my collection.
"The Scottish chef presents delicious recipes that
are affordable as well as achievable. From quick suppers to
ideas for casual entertaining and the beloved Sunday roast,
he shows how to get great results using clever combinations
and seasonal ingredients. Recipes like smoked salmon &
pea frittata showcase his simple yet beautiful food."
~ Good Food Magazine, October 2012
I have not had time to do anything other than quickly browse
the pages of this new book but from what I have seen, and
the few snippets I have read, I am looking forward to a thoroughly
enjoyable read. This is not the usual book churned out on
the celebrity chef conveyor belt making it much more appealing
and hopefully I will learn a lot more from it how a great
chef came to be a great chef. For now I will have to settle
for what Amazon has published on its site.
"Almost every decent chef I can think of learned
most of what he knows from Pierre" ~ Giles Coren,
"Pierre is one of the world's great, instinctive
chefs" ~ Heston Blumenthal
Pierre Koffmann's Memories of Gascony is the story of how
one of the most influential chefs of our time first learned
to love food. With recipes and reminiscences from his grandparents'
home in rural Gascony, this is an intimate account of school
holidays spent on the farm helping his grandfather to harvest
and hunt, and learning to treasure seasonality, simplicity
and the best ingredients at his grandmother's side.
The finest of Gascony produce is here, with a focus on simplicity.
The recipes stand the test of time and speak to the food tastes
and trends of today. While you read the charming stories of
everyday life on the farm, you'll devour the cuisine as you
go along - dandelion salad with bacon and poached egg, grilled
chicken with shallots and vinaigrette, and greengages in armagnac
in Spring; chicken liver pate with capers, Bayonne ham tart
with garlic, oeufs a la neige in Summer; roast hare with mustard
and beetroot, salt cod cassoulet and quince jelly in Autumn;
and fried eggs with foie gras, potato and bacon pie and tarte
aux pruneaux in Winter.
Spanish terracotta and the humble cazuela may
spring to mind however there is far more to cooking in clay
than the cazuela - meet one of the giants of the Spanish terracotta
cookware world, the Spanish Casserole. Terracotta cookware
is produced in so many shapes and sizes the range is mind-boggling,
the cazuela for example can be made as small as 6cm (ideal
for tapas) up to the substantial 46cm example which needs
four handles as it becomes somewhat heavy when filled with
a bake or a Spanish roast fit for 15 people!
Where a little depth is required the terracotta casserole
(sometimes known as an Olla) is a prime example
of where the Spanish producers tailor their cookware to accommodate
big family affairs. Big family casserole dishes can be as
large or even larger than the domestic kitchen sink!, generally
cooking food in such items is done over a wood fire or large
gas burner for which the casserole is perfect as well as being
suited to the oven. Big terracotta casseroles mean big appetites,
family, friends, atmosphere and the whole Mediterranean experience
Never let it be said that the Spanish cant create a
Big terracotta cookware comes in a range of guises, the Olla
casserole with lid, the perol which can reach
a capacity of 9ltrs or more, the Paellera which
when full can feed six or more persons and of course the giant
terracotta cazuela. Depending on the type of meals you intend
to make and if your kitchen (or indeed garage) has the space
to store one then a terracotta casserole of larger size is
certainly a good investment and will stand the test of time
as well as creating a great centerpiece.
Plenty of friends and a giant terracotta casserole for Halloween
or Bonfire night full of a delicious chowder or beef stew
who has a particular talent for presenting videos showing
you how to cook a recipe is Phil Vickery. Here he shows how
to cook a casserole showcasing Turkey with kidney beans, chorizo
With winter upon us and the nights getting murkier and
colder there is nothing better than a warming winter casserole
to make everyone feel good . . . and warm them up. With Phil
Vickery to show you how you cant go wrong. Here he shows
the versatility of turkey by combining Turkey with beans,
chorizo and vegetables in an easy to make dish.
CHORIZO AND BEAN CASSEROLE
2 tbsp oil, any will do
500g British turkey thigh, diced
150g chorizo, ¼ cm sliced
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red peppers, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 x 400g can tomatoes
1 x 400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp vinegar
roughly ½ pint strong chicken stock (or use turkey
stock if you have it)
2 tbsp cornflour blended with a little water (optional)
the oven to 180°C / Gas 6.
the oil in a large pan or casserole and add the turkey
to brown slightly.
the chorizo and tomato puree and stir well.
all the vegetables, bay leaves, kidney beans and sugar.
in the canned tomatoes, vinegar, a little salt and pepper
and the stock.
and cook in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes.
cooked remove from the oven and remove the lid, bring
to a gentle simmer and then thicken with a little cornflour
and water if required.
with mash, rice, pasta or couscous.
If you prefer you can use turkey breast instead of thigh
in this recipe. This dish can also be cooked on the hob
on a gentle simmer for the same length of time.
recipe is for my Mother's "Mushy" Pea Soup. I never did get
the recipe from her before she died so I have had to experiment
to get it to something like I remember it. If you would like
to know more about the story behind the recipe have a look
at Mother's "Mushy"
8 pints water (vary according to size of pan)
4 sticks of celery
2 large carrots
3 x 250g pkts dried peas (the type you have to soak
with a steeping tablet for 24 hours)
4 ham stock cubes or 1 ham shank boiled for three hours
and left overnight
Fresh ground pepper
you will need to soak your peas for 24 hours before you
If using a ham shank you will need to simmer it for three
hours or so and if possible leave it in the stock overnight.
Reduce your water by the amount of stock you have.
You will need a saucepan that is capable of holding at
least 8 pints of liquid. Add water to your stock to bring
it up to approximately eight pints (depends on size
of your pan) or add your stock cubes to water and
dissolve by heating.
Rough chop your celery and carrots and add to stock. (Do
not add any salt - salt stops the flavour from coming
out of the vegetables). Bring to boil and simmer for
about an hour.
Drain and rinse your peas which have been soaking and
add to pan. Bring liquid in pan back up to level at start
(If using stock cubes taste to see if additional stock
cubes might be required.)
Bring back to to the boil and simmer for two to three
hours with a lid on.
Remove from heat and put through liquidiser. Add salt
and pepper to taste.
Serve hot with chunks of freshly baked bread.
SCHOOLS TAUGHT DOMESTIC SCIENCE
on from last month here is another recipe using Weetabix.
am always fascinated by hand written recipes or cut-out recipes
that have been stuffed into the pages of old recipe books.
Another fascination is for the recipe pamphlets food manufacturers
used to publish. One such pamphlet I came across was for recipes
using Weetabix as an ingredient. There is no date on when
it was published but the style suggest perhaps the 50s.
8 oz Short-crust pastry
2 oz castor sugar
1 egg white
A few drops of almond essence
1 - 2 roughly crushed Weetabix
out the pastry to less thana quarter inch thick.
a rim with your finger and thumb, prick and bake at 200°C
/ Gas mark 5 for 10 - 15 minutes until pale gold.
with apricot jam.
egg white until stiff.
n sugar, almond essence and crushed Weetabix crumbs.
meringue mix on jam.
for 25 - 30 minutes at 180°C / Gas Mark 4.
into fingers and leave to cool.
MIXING BOWL . . . RANDOM BITS AND PIECES
tip on removing excess fat from stocks, sauces, soups and
received an email from Yinghui somewhere in Asia, they had
heard that lettuce leaves could be used for removing fat from
stocks, sauces, soups and stews and wanted to know if this
was true and why.
yes this will work and works purely because the lettuce acts
as a 'sponge' and soaks it up, you place the lettuce leaves
on top of the ‘offending item’ and leave for a minute or so
and then remove with tongs and discard. Other vegetables could
be used also but lettuce being the lightest can just sit on
the surface where the fat would be. It does seem a great waste
of lettuce though, when a good size spoon or ladle will also
do the trick, here are the two methods I always use:
the rendered fat comes to the surface take a soup ladle
or large spoon and make a small circular motion in the centre
of the pot: this will (because of centrifugal) force the
fat to the sides
the fat up and dispose
the stock, sauce, soup, stew etc is not needed until the next
day, this is much easier:
the soup into a bowl or similar clean container
in the refrigerator over night
fat will settle on the surface and turn solid, which is
very easily removed by hand
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