Monday, 14 December 2015

Wild Duck, Pistachio & Juniper Terrine

I just picked up Jane Grigson's 'English Food' to see what she had to say about terrines, and it turns out nothing. I had presumed that a version of the terrine was rooted somewhere in English food history, but it seems that we only have the French to thank, as far as Jane is concerned anyway...

Elizabeth David has a lot more to say with recipes for Terrine de Campagne, duck, veal, hare, pigeon and rabbit terrines. She employs two methods, the first is to pack a terrine tin with all your ingredients, then cover with aspic, a jellied stock made from pigs trotters, then cook. Or, the method I use, to line your terrine tin with bacon, layer in your terrine ingredients, seal with bacon, then cook and press overnight.

I am not au fait with an aspic yet, and Elizabeth says that they keep better using the bacon method anyway. A terrine was a preservation method originally. The terrine itself keeps very well for about a week, and improves in flavour after a few days. But if you seal it into the tin after cooking and cooling, with a layer of pig fat, it can keep for up to a month.

Most of the recipes that ED uses have similar flavours, juniper, thyme, brandy, some sort of liver, lemon zest, bay, mace and garlic appear in most instances. In spring and summer i would use fresher flavours, perhaps a poached chicken with lemon zest, thyme and almonds, then in autumn and winter I prefer game; duck or pigeon, with juniper, brandy and rich chicken livers.

I'll tell you my method, it is easily changeable depending on the season and what is to hand. Once you have made a couple you can switch things around and experiment, I don't think you can go that wrong once you have mastered the basics.

For a duck terrine I use two small wild duck, for pigeon you would probably need 4 birds and you can see the chicken method here... Roast the duck at 200˚C for 15 minutes. They don't need to be entirely cooked as you are going to cook the terrine again, very pink is fine as you want it to stay moist, a dry terrine isn't good.

Leave the birds to cool and when you can handle them cut off the breasts and legs and shred every scrap of meat you can get off them into bite size pieces, this is best done by hand. Keep the carcasses to make stock if you wish, it's lovely for a Cassoulet.

While the birds are cooking and cooling you can prepare the sausage meat. I use 800g of sausage meat, for a 30cm terrine tin. Get it from the butcher, you want it to have a decent amount of fat in it, minced meat in the supermarkets these days is fatless to the point of ridiculousness.

Now you can freestyle, but I'll tell you what I add. 2 tablespoons of brandy, a clove of grated garlic, 5 juniper berries crushed and finely chopped, the leaves from a large sprig of thyme, half a teaspoon of mace and a large handful of chicken livers cut into bite size pieces. I used to mince it finely, but now I prefer to come across these rich creamy pieces while eating the terrine. Then a handful of pistachios, I like the added texture of a nut, and a little pop of bright green when you cut it open.

Then I grease the terrine tin with butter and place three bay leaves on the base. These look pretty when you turn it out, but they also add flavour as the terrine steams in the oven. Line the tin with unsmoked streaky bacon, about 600g. The whole thing needs to be wrapped in the bacon, so line the bottom and the sides, leaving longer pieces so you can wrap over and also seal up the top.

Then you are going to layer up the sausage meat mix and the duck, starting with a layer of sausage meat, you will have three layers of this, with two layers of duck in between, starting and ending on sausage meat. So add a third of your sausage meat mix to the bottom of the tin and flatten it down with your hands into a pressed layer. Then add a layer of the duck meat, half of it in total, spread it out evenly over the sausage meat and again press it down, then the next third of sausage meat, then the remaining duck, then the final layer of sausage meat, pressing down the layers in between. When it is all in, then fold over the bacon sealing up the top, add a few extra bits here and there if you have any gaps.

Now it is ready to cook. Cover with a piece of greaseproof paper slightly larger than the tin, and tie this up with a piece of string. Place the terrine into a large deep baking tray and fill with water about half way up the side of the terrine tin. You are aiming to slowly cook/steam the terrine, so don't add boiling water, I usually add something tepid as freezing cold slows everything down too much. Then put into the oven for about an hour at 150˚C, until the terrine has come away from the edges of the tin If you want to measure it with a probe, the internal temperature should be about 68˚C. Remove from the oven and pour out the water.

Now you need to press it, put it back into the baking tray as juices will spill out as you weight it down. I have used various ramshackle methods of doing this, but you need something the same size as the terrine to sit on top of it, then heavy stuff. Another terrine tin filled with weights is a good idea. I currently use one and a half bricks, which fit nicely, on top of another layer of greaseproof paper, then I balance chopping boards and heavy pans on top. Like I say it's a bit ramshackle, whatever works for you, but figure it out in advance. I've had angry moments in the cupboard under the stairs looking for anything that might fit in the bloody terrine tin.

Then leave it to sit over night weighted down. I find it best to then leave it in its tin for a further day in the fridge for the flavours to really come out. Then slice and eat. It is good with hot toast, chutney or pickle. I made some pickled damsons which were lovely with the game, a spiced apple chutney is good, or a sweet pickled cucumber, or just a few little cornichon. It's a good thing to have around over Christmas if you can find the time to make it in advance as it can just sit in the fridge if you need a snack or guests arrive for lunch... It has a lovely rich flavour, spiced, moist duck, creamy chicken livers... delicious.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Slow Cooked Ox Cheek

I've been cooking this dish a lot recently, attempting to perfect it. Ox cheek is my current favourite when it comes to cuts of meat. They are a beautiful thing raw; a really intense deep red, and they smell lovely, an earthy meaty smell that I love. I haven't tried them raw, but they look like they might be tasty, and I've been thinking about curing and air drying a few as I think they would be rich and delicious.

Recently however I've been slow cooking them. I've taken advice from Richard Olney, Nigel Slater and Elizabeth David, not personally you understand, and have ended up with my current method which I'll continue to work on.

I think it is safe to say that a lot of the success of this lies in your beef stock, so be prepared to take your time over it. My last batch was my best yet. I think, that might have been down to the bone marrow... I found myself at the kitchen bench having a little snack of bone marrow sprinkled with salt at about 10am the other morning, I did think to myself 'what on earth are you doing eating this at 10am' but soon realised I didn't give a damn and was pretty delighted to be snacking on bone marrow at 10am. Perks.

If you make a big batch of stock you can freeze some, it then makes the ox cheek a much more simple dish to prepare next time you want to cook it. You will want to cook it again, I'm guessing. Ask your butcher for some beef bones, make sure you get a few with some marrow you can scoop out. Then roast the bones at 200˚C for about 20 minutes until they are golden brown and the fat is sizzling. 

While they are cooking get a big pan, heat a splash of oil, and fry a couple of chopped onions, a big pinch of salt, a couple of chopped red onions, a couple of chopped peeled carrots (the skin can be bitter in a stock) a couple of sticks of chopped celery, a chopped leek, a few sprigs of parsley, a couple of bay leaves, a few black peppercorns, a couple of cloves of peeled garlic and cook this all until it softens and starts to turn golden. Then add in the beef bones and enough water to cover everything, a few litres usually. You don't want too much water as you'll loose the flavour, just enough to cover.

Then bring the whole thing to the boil and simmer very gently for 3 hours. It should be only just moving. 'Don't boil the love out of it' someone once told me and I remember it every time. About half way through you should be able to scoop the bone marrow out of the bones, leave it to melt into the stock as it continues to cook. I usually do all this the day before as it's quite a time consuming task.

Now to the cheeks. I serve one cheek per person, but make a few extra just in case you fancy a bit more. Season the cheeks with salt on both sides. Heat a large cast iron pan or frying pan with a splash of olive oil and lay in the ox cheeks when it's hot. Don't crowd them, do them in batches if needs be. Don't move them around, just leave them to brown in one place for a couple of minutes on each side, you're looking for golden brown patches to form, all adding to the final flavour. Do this slowly, don't rush, and place the ox cheeks into a deep baking tray or oven dish as they are ready. Then add two sliced onions and two thickly sliced cloves of garlic to the pan you browned the meat in and cook slowly until golden.

Now add 125ml of red wine and the juice of an orange to the onion pan, heat on high and scrape up anything meaty stuck to the bottom of the pan, until it has reduced slightly, pour this over the ox cheeks, then add your delicious beef stock until the cheeks are just poking out of the top, about a litre. Finally add to the pan a chopped carrot, a couple of strips of zest from the orange, the skin of a pear and lots of black pepper. Cover with tin foil or a lid and cook in the oven at 180˚C for 3 hours, turning the cheeks occasionally. There's a turn the other cheek joke in there somewhere...

Then they are ready, they are the most beautifully soft melty delicious things, with a rich reduced gravy to boot. Serve an ox cheek per person with some vegetables and gravy spooned over, lots of horseradish or mustard, mash, polenta, whatever you fancy. It's been on the menu at Cook House quite a lot recently, I can't see myself tiring of it any time soon...

Jesmond Food Market

If you are not already aware I am now involved with orchestrating the new monthly food market on Armstrong Bridge in Jesmond Dene. The market has now been made permanent and will take place on the third Saturday of the month all year round, come rain or shine!

The next installment is this Saturday 10am - 3pm, Armstrong Bridge, Jesmond Dene. You can follow updates via the Twitter page @JesFoodMkt

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Vine Leaves

When I took on my allotment a few years ago, it was a vineyard. A Jesmond vineyard, that I presume never made it to the bottling stage, but I may be doing them a diservice. I kept quite a few of the vines at first, but as I've managed to get it under control and needed more space to actually grow stuff they have had to make way; so I'm now down to just one run of vines. They produce grapes, little sweet white ones, I should probably find out more, but there isn't enough to actually do anything with so we just snack on them when they are ready.

This year it has gone a bit wild, a vine on steroids, taking over paths and walkways; what with the overgrown apple trees it is becoming a bit difficult to actually get into the allotment. So I pruned it back, probably at totally the wrong time of year, but I do actually need to use the path... and I was just going to leave the long lovely bright green stems to wilt, when I realised I might actually be able to do something with them...

So I have brined them, carefully removing each leaf from the vine, I think I had about 100. I made a brine with one part salt to three parts water, boiled it up. I made about a litre to fill a large kilner jar. I then gently folded each leaf and layered them up inside a sterilised jar, then poured over the hot brine. I had to weight them down by putting a ramekin inside the jar as they floated to the top in the brine. You can see them slowly change from a bright green to a rich olive green colour as the heat wilts them.

I haven't used any of them yet so this is a bit of an open ended recipe... I have read that they lend a delicate lemony flavour to whatever you stuff them with. Elizabeth David uses them quite often in her book 'Mediterranean Food', so I'll start with her advice, always a good place to start I find... She bakes mushrooms and garlic in them, which sounds simple and delicious.

I would like to try a traditional dolmades; a recipe I have found where you wrap lamp rump in the leaves which you then steam, another lamb recipe where you wrap kofta in the leaves then bake in a rich tomato sauce. I think fish would be nice steamed in them perhaps, monkfish perhaps, or a whole mackerel? You can use the very young leaves in salads, I have read of them being used to scoop up tabbouleh salad, but it might be a bit late in the summer to get the tiny fresh thin young leaves.

I'll do some experimenting and let you know...

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Happy Birthday

Cook House is 1 today, it's been a whole year since I tentatively opened the doors and wondered if anyone would come...

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

On Toast...

I've written before about my love of things on toast. Since opening Cook House I have been working on my repertoire. It has become a staple menu item, changing topping week to week, depending on what's in season, what I've spotted in books, magazines, or on my travels. I came home from Mallorca with a couple of Sobrasada in my suitcase last week. I'm not entirely sure that's allowed, so don't tell, but that made up last week's toast; the spicy chorizo type paste that is specific to the Balearics spread on hot toast, topped with creamy homemade ricotta, good olive oil and some dressed pea shoots.

We're talking about an open sandwich in basic terms, I find it a lot more interesting than thinking of sandwich fillings however, and find inspiration from around the world. Everyone has their own variation whether it's called a taco, a pizza or pintxo...

These are ideas more than recipes... You're looking for balance; think sweet, salty, bitter and sour and see where you end up... 

Smoked Leeks on Toast with Whipped Feta and Black Sesame

I was inspired by the Trial Shift boys, when they took over Cook House for a pop up event a few months ago; I found them cooking their aubergines in the embers of my stove. Kicking myself that I hadn't thought of using the stove myself (why did I not?!), as soon as they handed the keys back I stuck some leeks into a roaring fire, totally incinerating the outside. When removed and left to cool I then carefully removed all the black outer edges and tore off ribbons of soft sweet smoked leek into a bowl and mixed with a dash of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt.

I served this on toast with feta cheese whipped up with some Greek yoghurt and extra virgin olive oil until it takes on the consistency of cream cheese. Spread onto toast, leeks piled gently on top and scattered with toasted black sesame seeds. The sweet smoky leeks with the salty cheese and toasted nutty sesame is delicious, this is probably my favourite invention so far.

Carrot and Lemon Pâté on Toast with Feta and Pea Shoots

I have been making a carrot, lemon and yoghurt pâté for a while now. I discovered it when I was putting together a vegetarian middle eastern style mezze supper last year. I made tons of different Lavosh crackers topped with different seeds and herbs and wanted lots of tasty colourful dips to go with them.

Chop 500g of carrots into large chunks and roast at 200˚C with about 6 cloves of garlic still in their skins and lots of olive oil until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes. Then pop the garlic out of their skins and blitz with 2 big spoons of yoghurt the zest and juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt. It's a lovely sweet dip with a rich hint of roast garlic and sharp lemon.

Sprinkle with crumbled feta or goats cheese, and top with a pile of dressed fresh pea shoots or rocket. The rich sweet pâté is delicious with the sharp salt cheese and fresh shoots.

Whipped Feta on Toast with Pear, Pea Shoots and Toasted Seeds

The whipped feta base mentioned previously is good with lots of toppings, as it's so salty and tart my favourite is something a little bit sweet. I've found a popular menu item to be fresh sliced pear, with pea shoots or rocket and toasted seeds, sometimes hazelnuts or a bit of chopped mint too.

I have tried it with pickled grapes and mint too, delicious; sharp, sweet and tasty. I also tried sliced blood oranges with toasted walnuts, normal oranges would work too, that was a pretty good brunch dish I think...

Or you could try fresh peppery radish with mint, black pepper and ricotta. Or ricotta, slow roast tomatoes and toasted cumin seeds... Or crushed peas and broad beans with lemon, mint and crumbled goats cheese... We're in a good season for lovely fresh toppings so I'll keep working on my repertoire...

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Allotment

I still have my allotment in Jesmond, a few people asked about it recently so I thought I would give you a very brief update. I've had it for four or five years I think, and have still never managed to get it totally under control even after all that time. This year is definitely the best so far though. It is presentable, and there are some things growing; last year I just managed presentable and kind of forgot to grow much, but I'm getting there. You know what they say... slow and steady wins the race...

Beetroot coming along well, both yellow and red varieties...

Aliums and our vine, it actually produces grapes, but probably not enough for even a glass of wine. The man who had the allotment before me planted it as Jesmond's first vineyard, but I don't think it quite went to plan...

Here they are just beginning... we might need a bit more sun.

Not a very good photo, but these are my asparagus peas, a very old type of pea dating back to the 1500's apparently. It produces a small winged pod that you eat that tastes like a cross between early asparagus and young peas... funnily enough. I'm hoping it survives as I'm intrigued to try it...

The apples, strawberries and newly planted borage are coming along well. I've also got courgettes, purple sprouting broccoli, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, broad beans, parsnips, cauliflowers, onions, leeks and nasturtiums all trying to survive...

Monday, 29 June 2015

Cook House by James Byrne

The morning I picked all the elderflowers James Byrne came round to Cook House to take some photos. It all worked out pretty well as big bowls of flowers hanging around the place really brighten things up. James came to a supperclub many moons ago when Cook House didn't even have a name or a dishwasher... he took some lovely photos on that occasion and I've followed his career since. His work is always beautiful and it was a pleasure to have him back at Cook House snapping away, I don't even mind the photo of myself which is an incredibly rare occurrence...