Monday, 21 April 2014

Homemade Bagels

I have been quite the traveller over the past month or so, from Hong Kong to the Lake District, with a long stretch in London between. I have been down in the big smoke working in two professional kitchens over the last fortnight. My first week took me to Rochelle Canteen, a wonderful little place in Shoreditch that serves breakfast and lunch and caters for various events and parties. The second week took me to Quo Vadis, at the heart of Soho’s busy restaurant scene. The aim being to gain a better insight into the professional kitchen, learn some new skills for the future and expand my horizons. I’ve been running my own dining events for nearly two years now and I thought it was about time I learnt a bit better how the professionals went about it. I will tell you more about what I learnt over the next week or so because a lot of it was incredibly delicious and interesting.

In the mean time back to recipes; all this travelling has meant very little time for recording anything I have cooked over the past few months, and there has actually been some pretty tasty stuff. I’ll start with these homemade bagels, a world away from what you buy in the supermarket, they are totally delicious. I was inspired by the famous Salt Beef bagels of Brick Lane, fresh bagels, stuffed with warm soft salt beef, pickles and English mustard. So good that I had to set about recreating them myself. The salt beef is brisket, brined for two weeks then braised for hours, I’ll share the recipe soon as it is definitely one of my new favourite things. But first the bagels...

These amounts will make 8 bagels. First take 450g of strong white bread flour and add 2 teaspoons of salt and 7g of dried yeast. Then combine 250ml of warm water, 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, mix, add to the flour and bring together into a ball of dough. It shouldn’t be too sticky, add a bit more flour if it is and knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes.

Then leave to rise in a lightly oiled bowl covered with cling film for 3 hours in a warm spot. When it has risen, to at least double in size take it out of the bowl and divide into 8 pieces. Now for the bagel shaping; I found rolling them into a long thin sausage then joining the ends with a dab of water to be my preferred method. You can also make them into a ball, stick your finger through the middle and spin it around your finger a bit to widen it, but I found the holes in these bagels closed up more while cooking. When you have formed your bagels put them back on a tray, covered with cling film and let them rest for 10 minutes. Do not leave them much longer than this; you don’t want them to start to rise again. I had a disaster with one batch where the initial dough was a bit too soft and then I left them too long to rest and they were just too soft to poach or bake, I ended up with giant bagel pancakes.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil while they rest and add 3 tablespoons of honey, which gives the outside of the bagel a very slight sweetness, you can also use a dark treacle for added colour and a slightly different flavour. At the same time put the oven on at 220°C. When the bagels have finished their resting you need to poach them, I did 3 at a time in a very large pan, be careful not to over crowd them. Make sure the water is simmering, then carefully pick up your bagels one at a time and drop them into the boiling water. They will float and bob about, you need to poach them for 1-2 minutes on the first side, then turn them and poach for a further 1-2 minutes on the other side, then remove to a baking tray.

The longer you poach them the chewier a crust you will achieve. They will increase in size in the water and also look like they have a slight batter like appearance to the outside when you take them out. Continue until they are all poached and then brush the top of each bagel with an egg wash. You can also sprinkle them with poppy seeds or sesame seeds at this point if you fancy.

Place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes until they are golden brown. They really are a whole different species than those found in the supermarket, that always seem to taste of either nothing or cardboard. These are light and slightly sweet inside with a delicious chewy crust. Filled with salt beef, mustard and sweet cucumber pickle I found myself overcome with joy... one of the most satisfying meals I have ever made, if you can call a sandwich a meal, which I definitely do...

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Some Like it Hops

After a bit of a bagel baking disaster and a 5am start to rectify the situation I was slightly jaded come the start of Some Like it Hops, add to that a bit of jet lag and you have a slightly clumsy dazed supperclub host. But everything was alright on the night thankfully; lovely guests, much improved second bake bagels and some delicious beers from Northern Alchemy, Out There Brewing Company and Tyne Bank Brewery. I am fast becoming a craft beer convert, I didn't even know I liked the stuff; turns out I like a lot of it... Add to that some pretty delicious hot salt beef and a few half pints of pickle and you have yourself a splendid evening at The Cumberland Arms...

Monday, 10 March 2014

Some Like it Hops

Some Like it Hops – Sunday 30th March 7pm

Tickets £35 – SOLD OUT

in conjunction with The Cumberland Arms, Out There Brewing Company, Tyne Bank Brewery and Northern Alchemy

Having teamed up with The Cumberland Arms previously for the very successful Autumn Graze market, I have joined forces with the popular Ouseburn pub once again for a very special beer themed evening. This will be dining at the Cumberland as you have never known it before, a three course feast with matching local beers. The event brings together some of the region’s best small breweries. Together we have designed a brilliant evening for food and beer fans alike. It is always very exciting to take my supperclubs to a new location, and this promises to be a unique night for anyone into their food or beer. All the beauty and design of my usual events but with interesting beers and delicious matching food. I’m particularly looking forward to the hot salt beef!

Tyne Bank Brewery, Out There Brewing Company and Northern Alchemy have come together with myself and The Cumberland to design the unique menu, featuring a beer matched to each course from one of each of the breweries. Out There have matched a Belgian style wheat beer to the starter, Northern Alchemy are working on something special to go with the main course; hot salt beef with mustards and pickles and Tyne Bank have a special cherry stout to go with the rich chocolate puddings! The Cumberland is also working on a new beer cocktail to welcome the guests on arrival!

Tickets for the event are £35 and you can book by emailing the Cumberland Arms, you will be contacted for payment when your place is confirmed.

Booking info:
The Cumberland Arms


Beer cocktails on arrival

beer matching by Out There Brewing Company

Potted salmon with lemon and black pepper
Dressed leaves
Wholemeal bread

beer matching by Northern Alchemy

Hot Salt Beef
Celeriac Coleslaw
Homemade bagels
Sweet cucumber pickles
English mustard

beer matching by Tyne Bank Brewery

Profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Experiments in Smoking Part 2

A few weeks ago Mr. Smokerson came out of hibernation for a day; a day of cold smoking experiments. I have previously tried cold smoked cheese, which was delicious; and have been wondering what I could turn to next. I tried some salmon which was less successful. Pretty much all of the different meats I have smoked have been good, but I am keen to branch out. I’m still a total novice and generally just bung in a big bit of meat, some wood chips and hope for the best. There is yet to be any proper science applied to my experiments, but I will continue and hopefully the whys and wherefores will present themselves in time.

Back to cold smoking day... Butter was my first thought; smoked butter must be a good thing? So I decided to smoke the cream and make my own butter, just to make it a bit more interesting; in order for the flavour to run right through, rather than just smoking the outside of a block of butter. Then I thought eggs, and finally ricotta. Mr Smokerson has a couple of shelves inside so there is room to have a few different things going on at once.

Smoked eggs, it seemed like a good idea? They were the most complicated task, I wasn’t sure whether to cook them, shell them, keep them raw, or how long to smoke them for. I did a bit of investigating and there were a lot of different ideas on timing, anything from 20 minutes to 4 hours. I tried them cooked in the end, boiled for 7.5 minutes, a couple shelled and one with its shell still on. You can smoke them raw apparently as the smoke will permeate the shell, but requires a longer smoke. I was still confident that a smoked egg was going to be a wonderful thing, I like eggs, I like smoked stuff. Winner? I read about smoked egg salad, I dreamt up a smoked scotch egg, how could that be bad?

So I was all set, with a bowl of cream, ricotta on a plate and eggs a few ways. I have a little metal mesh tray thing for cold smoking that winds round and round like a maze. You fill it with sawdust, I think mine is oak, it came with my smoker. Then you light a tea light, pop it in at one end, wait until the wood begins to smoulder then take the candle out. The wood dust then burns round the maze very slowly, allowing you to smoke things for long amounts of time.

It is interesting how the smoke affects things differently. After an hour the taste and smell of smoke in the cream was incredibly strong; the ricotta seemed just perfect, a very light smoky taste; and one of the pre shelled eggs had a very mild smoke to it, hardly noticeable at all. So I returned the other two for another hour, there was no way the smoke would have got through the shell of the egg if it has barely affected the shelled one.

I have to say I didn’t really enjoy the egg in the end, and I’m yet to make the Scotch egg version, because every time I think about it, I think ‘I don’t want to eat another egg that tastes of smoke’. It was a bit like you’d had a house fire, gone back the next day and eaten the cold smoky boiled eggs you had left behind... Doesn’t sound that appealing does it?

The ricotta was lovely, mild smoky and creamy. I made some polenta, with fried mushrooms and rosemary, with a dollop of ricotta on top. I think it would be delicious on top of a simple tomato pasta too. I had something similar in Italy in the summer, which was a rich tomato orecchiette pasta topped with aged ricotta, which was so strong and delicious.

The butter is good, very smoky, very. I wasn’t sure what to do with it though. When you taste a bit on its own it is lovely, when you have a bit on bread it seems almost like you’re eating smoked cheese rather than butter. Perhaps it would work on top of a steak? Or to make a white sauce for a fish pie, that seems like a good idea... or wrapped up with corn on the cob to go on the bbq? It’s definitely a niche market however! And a few weeks later I’m not thinking, I wish I had some more of that smoked butter, so it’s likely it won’t material again for a bit...

I think I’m so used to smoking and eating meat that smoked things that aren’t meat end up seeming a bit odd. Why would you want your egg to taste of smoke I ended up asking myself? Which I guess means it probably shouldn’t. So a tick for ricotta, a project to find a use for the butter, and possibly give the eggs a miss next time round...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Rhubarb and Ginger Compot

Our rhubarb at the allotment has survived and begun to re-emerge, I think it is the only thing growing on our plot aside from weeds at the moment, but I'm full of good intentions again this year and will try hard to have a tidy and productive allotment all season long. This is my second lot of rhubarb, I killed the first by stepping on it... I have never managed to do that well with my gardening, time being the main issue, but I seem to improve ever so slightly year on year; when I don't trample on my plants... I wish I had more time to spend there as I really love it. I'm a big fan of rhubarb, unfortunately ours is a little way off from being able to eat, but the shops are full of it at the moment.

I've been making this tasty little Rhubarb and Ginger compot for a long time now, it has even appeared in The Sunday Times. Fancy that... It was part of an article about Britain's best food bloggers, I was asked to send them a picnic recipe, and even though I have never taken this on a picnic and I'm not sure how you even would transport it, I chose this... I think nerves had something to do with it...

You can just eat this on it's own as a little pudding, it is lovely with clotted cream and meringues and I made it into a crumble at the weekend which was delicious. I added a few apples too and topped it with a thick crumble full of oats, butter and ground almonds. I think the ginger is the star of the show here, it just makes the whole thing so delicious!

These amounts will make 5 or 6 little puddings or a small crumble base. To start chop 400g of rhubarb into inch long chunks, finely dice two balls of stem ginger, then add the rhubarb, ginger, 2 tablespoons of the ginger syrup and 30g sugar to a baking tray. The amount of sugar will depend on the natural sweetness of the rhubarb, so start with 30g and keep checking it as it cooks, you might add up to 70g depending. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven at 170°C until the rhubarb is soft and stewed, about 20 minutes. Serve it cold with cream, meringues or use as a crumble base. It is sweet and tart with lovely spicy candied ginger.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Never Very Valentines Supperclub

I had the very talented Wiesia Bojko hanging out with me at last weeks Valentines Supperclub. I thought I would share a few of her beautiful photos with you, you can see more of her work over on her blog here... It was a great evening, there were fairy light hearts on the wall, pheasant hearts in the terrine and lots of canny guests. Everyone had a lovely time! I think the pulled pork was the best ever, falling apart fatty and juicy... There will be dates coming soon for more Supperclubs at Ouse Street Arts Club, The Cumberland Arms and also Carruthers and Kent wine shop, so watch this space...