#40 Elizabeth Raffald’s Orange Custards

I knew that we’d be hungover on Saturday after a big drinking session on Canal Street, so I knew I’d have to choose a recipe for a dessert I could prepare ahead for the meal we were having at Greg sister’s boyfriend’s in the evening. I wanted to do a sticky toffee pudding really, but it would have to have been cooked there. I went for (#40) Elizabeth Raffald’s Orange Custards as I had a couple of Seville oranges in, and it would be a shame not to use them. It was a bit of a risk however, as custards are either loved or hated. I realise that they don’t look that nice on the picture, but they were very good.

They were easy to prepare: In a blender the juice of one Seville orange, the blanched peel of half of said orange, granulated sugar, a splash of Cointreau (which I happened to have in! Get me!) and six large egg yolks were all whizzed up until the peel was just tiny specks. I then boiled half a pint of double and half a pint of single cream and slowly pored this into the whirring mixture. Pour the whole thing into eight ramekins and bake in a bain Marie for half an hour in a cool to moderate oven.

All would have gone well if my stupid oven hadn’t conked out! I got it sorted in the end though. I cannot wait to get my new oven in. My partly-done kitchen is getting pretty depressing now. My stuff is still in the lounge in boxes and bags…

Anyways, enough whingeing…

FYI: Elizabeth Raffald did many things in her short 18 year career (she started aged 14, but died at 32). She wrote the first English cookbook (The Experienced English Housekeeper), was the landlady of two inns, including the King’s Head pub in Salford, ran two shops, ran the first domestic servant’s employment agency, organised the first street and trade directory in Manchester as well as two newspapers as an eminence rose (not sure what that means, anyone know?) and had fifteen daughters! I think I might try and get hold of a copy of her book…

#40 Elizabeth Raffald’s Orange Custards – 8/10. Surprisingly orangey bearing in mind the fact you only need one to make eight. The Seville orange makes your tongue go all tingly – they really are superior to normal oranges when cooking.

#39 Finnan Haddock in a Mustard Sauce

On a visit to the Arndale Market earlier in the week on mission to buy something meaty, I found rather slim pickings! Maybe is was because I went the day after Easter Sunday, but there was little fish that appears in the Grigson’s book, and the game stall looked as though it may have closed down! I do hope not. Due to the lack of exciting ingredients, I plumped for old faithful: Finny haddock – or Finnan haddock as it appears it is really called.

It was quite an easy dish to prepare. The fish was poached gently in milk for 10 minutes that had already been brought to the boil containing cloves, bay leaf, a sliced carrot and a sliced onion. The fish was removed and kept warm. The milk was strained and used to make the sauce. The Grigson says to start with a roux of butter and flour and then to add the milk until a thin sauce is produced, which is then reduced. Be warned though, adding hot milk to a hot roux can cause lumps – use a whisk, but be prepared to sieve out any that shouls appear. Dijon mustard and seasoning was then added and poured over the fish. The whole thing was served with boiled potatoes turned in butter and parsley.

FYI: Finnan haddock, or haddie, originally comes from the Scottish village of Finnan near Aberdeen. Its IUCN conservation status is Vulnerable. However, stocks have been recently reported as increasing once more.

#39 Finnan Haddock in a Mustard Sauce – 8/10. I absolutely love Finny haddock, so I couldn’t go wrong with this one. I was a bit stingy on the mustard though – add more than you think is needed I’d say.

#38 Broad Bean Soup

After spotting the broad beans in Unicorn, I made (#38) Broad Bean Soup. A simple affair: soften an onion in butter, add water, a little chopped parsley, the beans, salt, pepper, and a little sugar and simmer until cooked. Then liquidise in a blender and add a few tablespoons of cream. Serve with a crouton!

This was a lovely fresh tasting soup – it’s certainly letting me know that Spring has arrived; even though the weather outside is AWFUL! I normally make soups with stock and thought that it would be quite bland. The best thing about it, however was the fact I could serve the soup up in the new le Creuset mini soup terrines that I bought…

FYI: the broad bean, or fava bean, is native to Africa and Northwest Asia, but has been cultivated in Europe since around the Sixth Century BC. Also, raw broad beans contain vicine, which can induce haemolytic anaemia in patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase phosphate deficiency. So do say I didn’t warn you!

#38 Broad Bean Soup: 6.5/10. A lovely fresh soup, but I prefer more substantial soups, however it would be great as a first course.

#20 – Quince Vodka (Part 2)

The quince vodka, now named “Quodka” has now been officially drunk, as were we after drinking it. We tried it with apple juice, but was too overpowering; but then we had it with tonic and it was lovely! I’m usually not a big fan of tonic water in drinks, but the sweet, subtle perfumed quince made it a very delicious drink. In fact, it may have been too delicious as we all necked it pretty quick – much quicker than if it was a strong normal voddie. Anyways, we all got even more pissed out in Manchester at Bollox, which by the way is totally brilliant!
#20 Quince vodka – a healthy 7/10. It was very nice and I shall make some if I have any spare next year

#37 Ginger Ice Cream

Oh my god! Everybody has to go out and buy and iced cream maker right this instant! I made (#37) Ginger Ice Cream as a pud to eat after a super-hot Thai red curry. It was super-easy to do and tasted gorgeous! No bought stuff can compare, even the posh bought stuff. You use the stem ginger in syrup to flavour it. All you do is make a custard with cream, 2 egg yolks and an egg, add ginger syrup and churn. Then add loads of chopped stem ginger and lightly whipped double cream after 10 minutes or so. When it’s finished churning, eat straight away for soft ice cream or freeze in a tub and eat whenever!

FYI: Ices were invented by the Greeks in the fifth century BC, who added fruit juice and honey to crushed ice. The Romans made iced wines. All the ice had to be either imported or collected from frozen lakes in the winter and stored in ice houses, as apparently Thomas Jefferson did. It was in tenth century Baghdad where ices that included milk and cream were made commercially. In terms of English food, the first ice cream recipe appears in the 1751 Hannah Glass book, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy – a favorite book of Jane Grigson’s – for raspberry ice cream.

These days there’s loads of posh creamy ice creams these days and the cheap ones are OK compared to the cheap stuff when I was a lad. I’m sure I read a few years back that in the seventies and eighties, the really cheap stuff, like the ice cream you’d get for a dessert in your school dinner contained whipped lard and other animal fats. Does anyone else know of this? I may have dreamt it!

#37 Ginger Ice Cream. 9/10 – I love ice cream and I love ginger! Perhaps there are better ones out there, but I think that home-made ice cream cannot be less than an 8 anyways.

Vegetable Soup

This is my vegetable soup, which I admit is pretty good. I always make a great load of it and freeze what I don’t eat. It’s very good for you, easy to make and pretty substantial for a soup containing no big meaty bits! The Grigson also does one that contains lots of meat! I must admit I make mine with chicken stock, but I also make it with vegetable stock and it’s almost as good. It difficult to stick to an exact recipe, because it throw in whatever I have, plus the time of year has a great effect. I think that there are certain ingredients that are a must, however, such as potato, onion, garlic, carrot, i.e. basic stock vegetables. That said if you miss a couple out it’s also fine. I would say try and use as many of them as possible. All should be clear in the recipe. The rest of the vegetables can then be added at the appropriate time – roots straight after the stock has come to a simmer, and greens towards the end. The choice of herbs is your own, but I like the classics – thyme, parsley, pepper and mint. Any stalks and leaves you don’t use, freeze. I freeze all my fresh herbs and spices – chillies, herbs, ginger, etc etc…

I think that some protein is required so I always add some red lentils, which thicken the soup slightly, and a can of beans – any will do, use your favourite.

For some tips on what to put in your bouquet garni, have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouquet_garni. I find that those little bags you get with washing tablets work quite well!

You will need:
2 tbs olive oil, or butter
bouquet garni – made from a very generous sprig of thyme, parsley stalks, mint stalks
2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbs of red lentils
salt and pepper

As many of the following basic vegetables as possible:
1 onion, chopped
1 medium-sized potato, diced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 sticks celery, diced
1 leek, sliced – use as much of the green parts as possible. Slice it finely though as it can be tough

2 or 3 root veg, diced appropriately, as some take longer to cook than others e.g. turnips, a small swede, parsnip
1 or 2 greens, thinly sliced e.g. 1/4 white cabbage, kale, peas (don’t slice those, obv.!)
1 can of cooked beans
2 tbs each parsley and mint
more salt and pepper, if required

What to do:

  1. Fry the stock vegetables in the oil gently for a few minutes, when they start to soften, season and add the bouquet garni. (Tie the herbs with a piece of string, or put in a muslin bag). Continue to fry for about 10 minutes – don’t let the vegetables colour, though.
  2. Add the stock and bring to the boil, add the lentils, then allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the root vegetables and simmer until tender – around 15 minutes.
  4. Add the greens, beans and herbs and allow to simmers for 5 more minutes.
  5. Removed the bouquet garni and check the seasoning.

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

This is one of my favorite recipes. It’s pretty easy, but requires a little care and attention – it’s the slow-cooking of the onions and mushrooms that make this dish. It’s based on a dish that an Italian chap called Luigi gave my Mum. I’m sure it’s got an exciting Italian name, though I’ve no idea what it would be. It’s originally made with chicken, mushrooms and cream, but I’ve faffed about with it. I do put chicken in it from time to time, but as mushrooms are one of my favorites, I’ve ended making this meal my mushroom fix. Use the best mushrooms you can find – my favorite are the dark-gilled Portobello mushrooms – they give a good earthy taste. I’ve also changed the double cream of the original recipe to creme fraiche, as it gives a slight piquant zing, that compliments the sweet, slightly chewy caramelised onions very well.

You will need:
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 tbs good olive oil
8oz (250g) mushrooms, sliced
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or half a generous tsp of dried (oregano could be used instead)
around 5 tbs of creme fraiche (or double cream)
salt and pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
whole wheat pasta

What to do:

  1. Fry the onions in the oil on a medium heat along with the thyme in a large, heavy frying pan. Cook the onions gently – don’t let them change colour yet.
  2. After 8-10 minutes, add the garlic and mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. The idea here is that the slow frying evaporated all the moisture away allowing the onions to caramelise. The more time you spend over this the better. Take at least 15 minutes, ten minimum. You should end up with unctuous oily mushroom, and flecks of sweet, chewy onion.
  3. Whilst the mushrooms are cooking, boil the pasta in salted water in the largest saucepan you have – the pasta will be less gluey from escaped starch and will cook quicker.
  4. Stir in the creme fraiche a tablespoon at a time until all the olive oil is incorporated into it.
  5. Add the drained pasta to the mixture and stir through.
  6. Serve in large bowls.