Sunday, 27 July 2014

Blackcurrant and Windfall Jam... and Raw Blackcurrant Jam


Blackcurrant is quite the headiest of summer flavours, almost musky, a touch tart, the scent of the leaves alone risks intoxicating.  I long to make cakes and sorbets and all sorts, but, better still, to capture this flavour in a jar.

The winds brought down the first Windfall Apples, and I used these to add body, texture, pectin and tartness to the Blackcurrant Jam.

2 1/2 lb ripest Blackcurrants
1/2 lb grated Windfalls
3 lb Sugar
1/2 Lemon juice of

Macerate these overnight in a bowl.  Bring to boil in a jam pan, then simmer quickly until reaches setting point.  Pot in sterilised jars.*

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I wondered a moment how to capture the raw Blackcurrant flavour, besides freezing, and remembered a recipe, again from Clare Island, for Raw Blackcurrant Jam.  This recipe uses far less sugar and has to be eaten immediately (or frozen) :

Mash Blackcurrants without crushing pips.  Beat until light.  Add sugar to 1/3 of the weight of the currants.  Beat again until light.  Pot in clean jars.  Use as jam  - not just on toast, but with yoghurt, pancakes, cakes, smoothies, on a spoon...

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*To test for setting point, put a plate in the fridge.  Put a teaspoon of the jam on the cold plate, return to fridge.  Setting point is reached if wrinkles when cool.  Sterilise clean jars by putting in oven at 100 C for 20 minutes.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Redcurrant (not) Frozen Yoghurt



Ideally for this simplest of summer recipes, you have an ice-cream maker, and a freezer.  If this is the case, you coarsely blend 500g Redcurrants (or, even better, Blackcurrants) with 100g Sugar and one pot of Yoghurt, put this in the ice-cream machine, and when ready pot and freeze, for the most fragrant and fruit-filled of summer ices.

In my case I blitzed the Redcurrants, Yoghurt, a tablespoon of Sugar and same of Elderflower Cordial, dropped in a few Blackcurrants and we ate it as it was, tart and not frozen.

This recipe comes from Clare Island Yoga Retreat Centre, where they make yoghurt of their own Sheep's milk and are likely gathering their heavenly Blackcurrants as I write...

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On the sugar front - need I say that in this and all sugary recipes those of you who prefer to use alternative sugars (agave/maple/date/fructose &c.) replace as you wish.  Note however, I do cut down on sugar, use unrefined varieties and bake on the tart side.  At the same time, I don't hesitate to express my sympathy for the too-oft villified sugarbeet. 

A new home... a new kitchen



Those of you that have followed this blog from the start will remember tales of Gardener's Cottage, where kitchen pottered into garden, and forage and firewood gathering were the order of the day, all against a backdrop of frosty winter fields.  Most of these, my former ventures, are still gathered here on the blog, please scrawl down, use the search button or refer to "best posts" and "archive".

I have since accumulated a husband, that baking boy of once-upon-a-time, a child, dear charming girl child, now nearly walking and expert at podding peas, a dilapidated townhouse and an allotment.  Today, nearly a year since I last posted I am relaunching this blog, to once again regale you with tales of la bonne bouffe - good food.  My angle will have no doubt changed since those romantic early years -  now all a-fluster with feeding a family, holding together a tumbledown home, and struggling to grow vegetables in a bramble strewn patch of ground...

Despite the ramshackle nature of the abode, Tom, husband, baker and (more to the point) joiner, has hewn a magnificent kitchen (shown), great ash work surfaces, deep drawers, shelves galore, these a woodburning stove, and giant gleaned sink, make cooking at Dow House utter joy.

Enough.

For now news is: there is Blackcurrant and Windfall Jam in the making, and we are planning a foray to the local poultry auction.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Honey and Lemon Roast Carrots



Yellow and orange Carrots roast with Honey and Lemon.  Piled on top of large grain wholemeal Couscous and Rocket.  Glamourised with Nasturtiums, Calendula Petals and Feta.  A super Sunday evening feast of allotment pickings.

Broad Beans with Chorizo, Patatas Bravas...



Fry Chorizo and Onion in Olive Oil, add blanched Broad Beans, heat through until hot, smother in Olive Oil, fresh Garlic and Spring Onions... Roast yesterday's leftover New Potatoes in Olive Oil with Rosemary.  A sort-of-Spanish feast from the allotment.

And for quite the best in Olive Oils:  I have just had a new delivery from Spain of Mother's Garden Olive Oil, it is so fresh it is buttery, almost drinkable.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Rocket Pesto



A fiery summer pesto, and a solution to all that rocket going to too quickly to seed.

My preferred pesto is one that both catches the flavours and textures of each separate ingredient, and at the same time appears as a whole, an entity unto its own.  Hmmmm.  The only guide to making it therefore is your own tastebuds.  I go about it something like this :

Fill a colander with Rocket.  Toast a handful of Sunflower Seeds. Grate some Parmesan (miss out if vegan).  Chop the Rocket by hand. [A Pesto made in a blender does not hold the beauty, the texture of a hand chopped pesto, and it really is no more efficient.]  Chop Garlic (fresh if available) with a pinch of coarse Salt.  Cover the Rocket in Olive Oil (and/or mixed with Sunflower Oil according to taste). 

Now add the other ingredients, tasting as you go, until you come to a powerful medley of the green, the nutty, the punch of Garlic, body given by the Cheese, the lot doused in Oil.  Finally, add a touch more Salt to taste.  Remembering the Parmesan is salty, but its saltiness is of a different nature to that of seasalt, you should be able to taste both.

This pesto can be eaten on bread, pasta, in potato salad, on carrots, in Vinaigrette, or in Courgette Soup ...oh the options are endless.

To preserve the pesto cover in oil, and close in a jar.  The layer of oil makes an airtight seal.  It will last about six months thus.  Or, simply freeze it.


Other Pestos :
Garden Pesto
Nettle Pesto
Wild Garlic Pesto

Oh Summer Salads


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Roasted Vegetable Pasties


I made pasties to take into the woods, as the coppicing season starts again.  These are filled with a mixture of Roasted Pumpkin, Carrot and Shallots, Steamed Leeks, Ginger, Chilli, Tomatoes, Apricots and Raisins... The pastry is Wholewheat Flour, Butter, one Egg and a splash of Milk. 

The ultimate autumnal pocketable sandwich!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Les Tartes aux Pommes

The season for Apple Tarts is upon us, and last night I set to on that pud suited to autumnal feasting: Une Tarte Tatin.



For the recipe see last year's post:  Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin 

It is important to use apples that don't fall to pieces, here I used Spartan, Cox and Egremont Russets.
And for the Pastry:  6oz Flour, 2oz Ground Almonds; 5oz Butter; 2oz Icing Sugar; 1 Egg; Vanilla Essence.





This morning, with the leftover pastry I made an Apple and Pear Tart.  Glazed only with Brown Sugar.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Beans, Greens and Butter

After the deluge...


These weeks of deluge bring green to the roadsides, woodlands and the veg patch.  My hands full of the green stuff, I this weekend nourished stomach and soul with garden pulses and as much of the chlorophyll as I could gather.  Here a very buttery Green Bean Stew.  


Soak a mugful of beans for 24 hours, or at least overnight.  Here I used Runner Beans collected from the pods last Autumn.  Change the water and cook the beans in water with a few Bay Leaves and Fennel Seeds (to counteract flatulent effects) and no salt - salt can make the skins tough.  Simmer on the hob or in the oven until the beans are soft, not quite falling apart.   Remove and use the same pan to cook the Veg.  I choose to cook them separately as I want the Green to be almost raw and rife with goodness.  The recipe may appear very convoluted.  It is really simply a steaming process, cooking the stuff at the base most and on the top the least.  The idea is to use whatever Greens, wild or cultivated you have to hand.  Here I have used fresh green Herbs, Land Cress, baby Alliums and a Cabbage.


I cooked the remainder in layers in the pan, only stirring the Onion.  Soften one large Onion in Butter.  Add very thinly sliced Cabbage, another knob of Butter and a water to cover the base of the pan.  Put on the lid and allow the Cabbage to steam slightly.  Add baby Leeks, Spring Onions and Wet Garlic, all finely chopped, Greens and all.  Add Lovage stalks and leaves.  Add more Butter and Savoury.  Continue to steam slowly.   


Then add the Beans and fill the pan with water until just visible at the height of the Beans.  Now, add some of the chopped Parsley, Chard, Land Cress, Sweet Cicely...  Steam a minute or so more.  Top with the remainder of the Greens, a knob of Butter.  Season and serve immediately with fresh Bread and Butter.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Spring Eggs - Pheasant, Goose and Aracana...


I was today berated for not having written since the Garden Pesto - over a month ago.  As it is Spring, and the birds are a-laying, here is a post in celebration.  For, nothing beats the joy of a good egg.  Above, a Pheasant Egg Tart.  

Seventeen Pheasants Eggs

A friend, pruning a Fig tree, put the Pheasant Hen off her nest where she had left seventeen beautiful pink/green eggs.  Plenty for a tart.  These, the first Watercress leaves, Wild Garlic, Land Cress and Nettle tops made a  Springfilled quiche, mighty sustenance when rapidly wood-gathering before letting the forest be for the coming seasons.

The Forest

A Goose Egg

Here a Goose Egg.  Lady Goose will lay one every other day for the next eighty days.  It is enrobed in a Butterbur leaf - leaf once used to wrap butter, here wrapping an Egg.  We ate one boiled.  'Twas a dream, cooked for ten minutes from boiling, and shared between two.  I blew the second egg, for an omelette, and then wrapped it in Onion Skins, tied them with string and boiled the Egg shell thus, a mere ten, fifteen minutes.  The Pheasant's Eggs, the Goose and the Aracana will be blown and filled with Chocolate for Easter...

There is much to be said on the Egg, and, for that matter, the feather.  Gulls eggs are known to be a great delicacy - nowadays likely forage on the rooftops of local seaside towns - Lapwing eggs were once so sought after they were smuggled across borders.  Songbirds used to be trapped in France using a spinning scintillating mirror, giving the term "miroir aux alouettes" for a decoy. As for other posts on Eggs and birdish musings, see these on Turkey Eggs and Welsummers, on Chickens in Kabul, and on other feathery treats favoured by the gourmands: Woodcock on Toast and Ortolan Bunting,  not to mention that Bar Le Duc Jelly, the redcurrant pips removed using the quill of a goose...



Friday, 17 February 2012

A Garden Pesto


The snow melted, this morning I set out to see what edible greens could be found and foraged for a raw Garden Pesto.



I was hoping for Wild Garlic, but it doesn't seem to be coming up yet.  There was however a little bit of wild green:  Dandelion, Nettle, Comfrey.   And in the cultivated garden:  Land Cress, Chard, Beetroot Tops, Curly Kale, baby Leeks, Mustard,  Poached Egg Plant, Red Veined Sorrel, Fennel, Parsley, Marjoram...



I pinched the smaller leaves of all of the above and chopped the lot very finely indeed.  Toasted and ground some Cashew Nuts that were sitting around, these and some Pumpkin Seeds and Hemp seeds.  Stirred the lot into a mixture of Olive and Rapeseed Oils, added a squeeze of Garlic, some French coarse Sea Salt...
Oh!  The joy of a raw vegan Pesto from the scrapings of a winter's garden.  We ate it for lunch on some hot pasta, to pre-empt Spring.



If this is covered in a lot of oil it should store six months or so.  But it's so delicious immediately - why not feast on it these next days awaiting the first Spring Shoots...

...

For when those Ramsons do appear, a recipe for Wild Garlic Pesto.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Soups and Stews


As the winter cold eventually embraces the Norfolk countryside, and I am obliged to double the numbers of socks worn, forced to better my gloved typing, I am grateful for soups, and stews, every day, morning, noon, dusk...


Pumpkin Daal

My main staple is what I call Pumpkin Daal, made simply and rapidly with a handful of red split lentils, spices and some baked Pumpkin.  I am ever thankful too for the abundance of Pumpkins, still storing well.  I have also just discovered, on the Eat Weeds blog, a "Wild Dahl", made with hedgerow seeds, which looks to inspire some change in my quotidian recipe.


Otherwise, in celebration of these Soups and Stews:

 Butter Bean and Winter Greens Stew, topped with Stale Sourdough Croutons and grated Cheese


The grated cheese adds a French style touch of luxe to this simple peasant stew.

Pumpkin and Cinnamon Soup

Although this picture was taken in the late Summer - that stunning bright sunshadow, unimaginable in today's white/grey - this is a super winter soup, thick, sweet and warming...


Pea and Cumin Soup, with Olive Oil

An all year round favourite, inspired by the discovery of Soupe de Pois Casses au Cumin in a little restaurant on the rive droit.   This can be made in the winter with frozen Peas, split or dried Peas, the latter soaked before cooking.

Tomato and Sourdough Soup

This is a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi.  It is a soup for Tomato season, but if you happen to have bottled Summer's Tomatoes, or made Passata, these can be used.  I followed his recipe, which can be found here, skipping the Sugar and the tinned Tomatoes, and using half a pint of Tomato Passata made in Summer, extra Cumin, and Parsley instead of Coriander.  This soup brings a wonderful ray of Summer in the winter's durge.


Courgette and Basil Soup

A Summer Soup.  But a gorgeous one, so it has a line here.


Flageolet Bean and Swede Stew, with Soda Bread

Another great peasant style soup/stew, nourishing, and delicious if made with some home-made stock.


Potato and Parsley Soup, with Bacon

A delicious soup, a discovery.  Cook potatoes as per mash.  Mash with Butter and Milk, ground Mace, Salt and Pepper.  Dilute further with milk, the cooking water and a splash of white wine.  Add thinly slice Leeks and Shallots, cook very gently for ten minutes or so. Stir in a tonne of chopped Parsley at the very last minute and top with crispy Bacon if you so wish.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Winter drinks - the verdict.


Spring, Summer, Autumn, were spent, you might remember, madly concocting inifinite beverages, that the winter might be spent hunkered down by the fire, a glass of some sweet form of hedgerow inebriation in the hand.  And, thank goodness!  For now, winter is ripe, and the cupboards overspilling with tipple.

First then, the infused liquers.  Gin left to mull with Bullace from the garden, Whisky full of wild Blackberries, Vodka with Elderflowers and Gooseberries.  I have learnt a lot about these.  Often the tendency, and the recipes I have found, have doused the alcohol full of sugar, as well as fruit.  As, it appears, the alcohol alone preserves the fruit and is quite palatable with only the barest brush of sugar, the amount of sugar often reccomended is really for those with a sweet tooth.  I prefer a sharper, dryer and often bitterer drink, so for next year, I will use the following quantities:
4pts Alcohol : 3lb Fruit : 8oz Sugar
With very sweet fruits, such as Blackberries, I might even reduce this to 6oz Sugar.
Secondly, as I am not a drinker of summer cocktails with ice, shaken in tall glasses, I have found the lighter Vodkas and Gins (Gooseberry, floral etc) harder to drink, too sweet mixed with tonic, and not quite my thing on their own.  I have found these best as gifts.  The darker, winter brews, are wonderful alone, warm by the fire, and I will make these again by the bucketful next year.


The Quince Brandy was long awaited, hoping to capture that wondrous floral perfume and tart flavour.  I tried two versions, one raw, and one cooked.  I have to say that having left the both three months in bottles with a variety of spices, the Quince sadly hadn't given much of its inimitable flavour to the Brandy, it instead tasted mainly of the spices, of which too much Star Anise for my palate was evident!  The cooked version did have a slight fruitiness.  Next year I shall attempt with grated Quince, as one friend suggested, no spices and leave it longer, perhaps even with a dash of Quince Juice.  However, it made a wonderful spiced warming drink, and another great Christmas present...


2011 Recipes for infused Alcohols:
Sloe Gin
Bullace Gin
Blackberry Whisky
Gooseberry and Elderflower Vodka
Gooseberry and Whitecurrant Gin
Quince Brandy

2010:
Cherry Vodka



As for the brews, the Elderflower Champagne was a dream, drunk young, aged well to a sharper wine, and I shall be making much in the future - despite the explosions in the shed!


Otherwise, I still have to perfect my brewing.  My tactic seems to be: mix it all up, forget about it... and in one case mice had found my muslin bottle tops rather tasty, another had turned to vinegar.  The experts on home-made wines are Carl Legge - see his wonderful blog.  And, Christophe, on Clare Island.  I spent November there racking, bottling, and tasting a variety of brews.  My memory is still sharp with the sweet sour and perfectly musty Rhubarb and Apple Wine, the two years aged Vin de Cassis, which was sweet and rich and drank like a good Port.


The Hedgerow Syrup has been a favourite.  Pasteurised as it was in bottles, it has kept well, and serves as a hot and heartwarming winter drink, to fend off flu, to ward off the weather.  I also made a Quince Syrup, along similar lines, which i drink as a cordial, a lovely flavour, and great quencher of the thirst after a stint in the garden.  Both can also be used in crumbles, compotes and wintry puds...

So... with the coming of Spring, and first the Elderflowers, I look forward to a new spell of concocting drinks to fill the cabinet, for yet another winter hunkered down by the fire.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Pot-Roast Partridge

I have to acknowledge having, these last few days, fed friends on the likes of Steak Tartare and Chips, dishes that are utterly inconsistent with the rustic glow I aim to emanate here.  Admittedly the Tartare was made of the finest of Norfolk cows, adorned with the yellow Yolks of my mother’s hens’ eggs, Nasturtium Capers and Lacto-Fermented Cucumber, the Chips cooked over gas by starlight in the garden.

The Tartare… preceded by raw Jerusalem Artichoke and Fennel salad, preceding Pear Cake made with the beautiful sweet Josephine pears that are best stored till now, and eaten peeled, running with sweet juices… The Tartare therefore, photogenic though it was, was not photographed.

A Pot-Roast Partridge

More in line with the wholesome theme of this blog however were last week’s Pot-Roast Partridges.  Envisage the artful cooking of the meat as in a roast, the vegetables meanwhile cooking slow in the bird’s juices, all in one pot, for a couple of hours, till the meat is falling, melting in the vegetables, the vegetables are tender but not falling apart… This is the simplest and quite my favourite way of cooking game.  (That is besides enrobing it in Cabbage as in this Rabbit and this Partridge.)

A brace of Partridge, kindly given.  Hung four days.  Plucked, Gutted.  Necks and hearts reserved for stock.  Partridge sealed in butter, stuffed with Butter, Onion, Carrots, Bay Leaves.  Swede, Celariac, Potatoes, Carrots chopped into chunks.  The Partridge lain on these in a big pot.  The mere addition of a knob of Butter, Salt, Black Pepper, an inch of water, some Herbs.   This is brought to the boil on the hob them put into the oven, with a lid on, to cook at about 150-180C for two hours.  The birds tender, the vegetables slow-cooked and rife with flavour…  Eat with the juices, a teaspoonful of jelly, and that’s all.


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Save the carcass for stock.  Add to this vegetable peelings, the reserved necks and hearts of the birds.   Simmer covered in water overnight and use the liquid for the base of winter soups.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

A Winter's Quiche - Roasted Pumpkin and Onion Tart with Cumin Pastry



On a winter’s night: a Quiche.

Whether to call these creations that are not Quiche Lorraine, Quiches, or as perhaps the French would:  Tartes. Or indeed, as Elizabeth David denominates:  Galettes, Fiouses, Tourtes, Flons, Flans to describe "a flat open tart".  Whether one term demands Lardons, another Gruyère, one Pâte Feuilletée another Pâte Brisée, I’m unsure.  Mrs David seems to suggest that the variations are likely regional. (French Provincial Cooking, Elizabeth David).  

Either way, this one is something of a Roasted Pumpkin and Onion Tart, with Cumin Pastry.

Pastry:  Wholemeal Wheat and Spelt, 2 tsp ground Cumin, 2tsp whole Cumin, 50g Butter, 1 Egg, a splash of cold water.  Left for twenty minutes in the cool, then rolled out.

Meanwhile roasting in the oven;  Pumpkin chunks, added to these, an Onion, cut large, a sprinkling of Paprika.  When just roast, these are laid in the pastry with some cloves of garlic, and Oven-Dried Norfolk Tomatoes, stored in Olive Oil, ‘til the depths of winter.  Need I say ‘tis a joy to have these sweet salty tomatoes at this time of year.


The Egg Mix, on this occasion, was made of: six Eggs, 1 tbsp Yogurt, 100ml Milk, Salt, Pepper.  Poured over the veg until near reaching the rim of the pastry.  The pastry was folded over the top (Is it then a Pie?)

Then cooked in the oven at about 180C for 40 mins until browning and rising.  Eaten with a Winter Slaw and steamed Purple Sprouting Brocolli doused in Lemon Juice.


Winter SlawRed Cabbage, Endive, Lacto-Fermented Cucumber, Lacto-Fermented Radish, Pickled Beetroot.  Vinaigrette:  Apple Juice, Cider Vinegar, Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, grated Ginger, Garlic

I ate this one winter’s eve when a sudden bout of eggs were sent my way.  It’s also makes a nice low key Sunday meal, fitting between pruning of the Apple Trees, the turning of the compost, the planting out of Broad Beans…


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Other seasonal Quiches might include:  Leeks, Sea-Beet, Brassicas, Sorrel, Salsify, Jerusalem Artichokes.  If there are enough Nettles around you could try this Quiche: Turkey Egg and Nettle Quiche. If you fancy something slightly extravagant: Endive, Blue Cheese and Walnut is a delicious combination, especially with a few slices of Pear.  That or Boudin noir, Apple and Chestnut for something sustaining, French and all the more extravagant.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Winter Feasting (iii) A Feast Indeed! or How to eat Terrine: with lashings of Bread & Butter, Pickles, the like...


Besides the Terrines, how to satiate the stomachs of twenty-odd banqueters?


Game Terrine

The stoic winter staples: Puy Lentils, Cabbage and Bread.  These, and piles of Pickles and Jellies from the shed.  This finished with Baked Apples, and a variety of alcoholic fruit, again to be found in the shed-cum-pantry.  A moment to rejoice in that Summer-Autumn of perpetual preserving!

Redcurrant Jelly and Pickled Crabapples

Before dining: long milling over Mulled Cider.  The Cider, a dream, made by a friend and sweetened slightly in its flagon with the addition of Honey.  It was mulled with Quince, Allspice, Cinnamon, Cloves, Lemons.

The Lentils I failed, once again, to photograph in their steaming glory.  Simply: cooked the night before with Onions softened in Butter, Garlic Cloves in their skins, Thyme, Bay Leaves, Juniper and Water, flavoured nearing the end with Balsamic Vinegar, Red Wine, some Apple/Rosemary Jelly, a touch of Soy Sauce, Salt and Pepper.  They sat luxuriating in their sauce for a day, and were then heated up.

Sliced Terrine and Cabbage

The Cabbage was cooked in batches on the day, first with onions in Olive Oil, then slowly in a light, homemade Cider Vinegar, and masses of Caraway.  Reheated at the last minute, laid on Cabbage leaves and topped with roast Pumpkin Seeds.

An enormous Pumpkin

The enormous Pumpkin, was chopped into big beautiful chunks, and doused in a Marinade of Olive Oil, Chilli, Demarara Sugar (for lack of Maple Syrup), and a touch of Balsamic and Soy Sauce, and French coarse Sea Salt.  After about an hour of marinating it was roasted at high heat in the oven, and served hot.  The idea for the recipe (minus Soy and Balsamic) came from a fortnight spent in November back ‘midst the gales on Clare Island, a recipe for Pumpkin Crisps made with Uchiki Kuri.  I shall tell about the fortnight anon.

...chopped in big, beautiful chunks, sat in marinade

The Bread, all five loaves, were cooked as per the previous recipe.

Bread


Great sloshing bowls of Pickled Apples, Pickled Crabapples, Bar-Le-Duc Redcurrant Jelly and Rosemary Jelly were lain between bowls full of Butter.

Apples baked in Gin-soaked Bullace

Following on from that Baked Apples, stuffed with Figs (Norfolk Figs – oven dried) and Sultanas soaked in Quince Brandy.  Cooked in a bed of Gin-soaked Bullace, these the remnants from the Bullace Gin.  With those, to feed the multitude, Potted Brandy Figs, and a selection of post-Christmas chocolates of all varieties, Satsumas, and bowls of Hazelnuts and Walnuts (again from local gardens).

Potted Brandy Figs

Oh ‘twas a feast indeed…

...

...breakfasting on leftovers

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Winter Feasting (ii) - Venison and Game Terrines


In a moment of over-zealous Christmas jollity, a last-minute festive feast was planned, friends were invited, crockery searched out, rugs shook, candles borrowed, firewood cut, a Christmas Tree erected.  Long debates necessarily ensued over the menu, how to seat and feed such numbers, more to the point, on what… So it was that we settled on a variety of cold Terrines, and on Boxing Day, while others slept off their Christmas indulgence, banqueted languorously on cold cuts, on Tongue and the previous day’s Plum Pudding, or set themselves up for a serious bout of telly-watching, we mopped our brows and set to concocting Terrines.


Now, it has to be said that a Terrine, like a Chutney, improves with age.  If covered with Goose fat, or clarified butter, it can happily last a week, longer even.  Time however, had pressed us to last minute structuring, and I have to say these seemed none the worse off for having sat a mere twenty-four hours.  Both of us claiming to be experts, and each distrusting the other’s method, cookery books – Elizabeth David, Constance Spry, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – were heavily consulted.  Eventually we took ideas from all, a hefty pinch of common sense, of foody inspiration and adoration… and the recipe that follows is what we came up with.

Before I begin however, two things:  Firstly, a Terrine is simply a Pâté, made in a terrine dish.  Once you have the method you can adulterate it as you wish, adding and removing ingredients according to preference or what is available.  That said, I have known a Terrine to fall apart, so I do suggest having at least equal quantities of farce to chopped meat.  Secondly, in a burst of immodesty, I have to say these were the best Terrines I have ever eaten, not only did they look sublime, but the flavourings, the texture, the moistness, all combined to make them taste utterly heavenly, and quite worthy of French charcuterie…  Whether this is repeatable simply by following a recipe, I don’t know – but do have a go, and do let me know.

The following should fill three two pint Terrine dishes.

For the Farce:
2lb Sausage Meat
½ lb Pheasant Livers
8 Chestnuts
6 Dried Figs
6 Dried Apricots
Sage
Rosemary
Thyme
15 Juniper Berries
2 Blades Mace
1 Egg
1 tea-cup White Wine
Black Pepper


Chop the Pheasant Livers; Roast the Chestnuts; 
Soak the chopped Figs and Apricots

The Farce is literally the stuffing, it holds the Terrine together.  To make it, first chop the Pheasant (or Chicken) Livers very small, keeping any blood; Roast the Chestnuts and peel them, breaking them into small bits; Soak the chopped Figs and Apricots in hot water; Crush the herbs and spices (to taste).  Then mix all ingredients, including the blood from the Pheasant Livers.  Season with Black Pepper.  If you find you want to further moisten the mixture, you can use the water the fruit soaked in.  If you want to dry it or bulk it out, use stale Breadcrumbs or Oatmeal.

Crush the herbs and spices

For one Venison Terrine, one Pheasant Terrine, one Venison and Pheasant Terrine:
1 ½  lb Pheasant meat
1 ½   lb Venison
21b streaky Bacon
Bay Leaves

Thus using about 1lb of meat in each Terrine.  The meat should be in pieces, but chopped thinly so it can be lain in layers through the Terrine.  Stretch the Bacon on a chopping board using the back of a knife.  Any Bacon Fat or bits that break off can be added to the Farce.  Line Terrine dishes, or Loaf Tins with the Bacon, leaving enough so it can fold over the top and wrap around the whole Terrine.  You can place Bay Leaves or other Herbs in the base, these will produce a pattern when the Terrine is turned out.

Line Terrine dishes with Bacon

Now layer Farce, followed by meat in thin layers, to fill the Terrine.  Aim to commence and finish with Farce, so that the Terrine holds together.  In the Venison Terrine I added a layer of Bar-Le-Duc Redcurrant Jelly, made this Summer, after the Meat, this added a tart sweetness to the Terrine.  


Finally the Bacon is wrapped around, tucked in and the Terrines are covered and cooked for 1 ½ to 2 hours in a Bain-Marie at 160-180C until firm, shrunken from the sides, the juices running clear when a knife is stuck in.


Any juices will eventually form a jelly when the Terrine cools.  If you are fortunate this might even enrobe the sides and top of the Terrine when turned out and provide a delicious glaze – ours slipped off.  The Terrines are then left, pressed under a weight to finalise the togetherness of the Terrine and to create a flat base for when they are turned out.   Leave for up to three days, or, if longer cover with a fat, or freeze. Turn them out prior to serving using a butter knife to slip around the edges.



When sliced, all the layers of meat and farce, as well as the fruits and nuts become apparent:


...to follow: the entire feast.