Au Revior!

See you later chaps and chapesses – I’m off to France for 2 weeks today on a field trip to St Auban, just a wee bit north of Nice in the South of France. I’ve told you about the place before. I’ve added a couple of notices to appear whilst I’m away (isn’t technology a wonderful thing), but that’s it for recipes until the 4th of July when I return. Whilst I’m away make something exciting, and tell me about it for when I get back.

Have fun in the sun!

Laters! x

#164 Sorrel with Eggs

It’s always exciting trying a new food, and this one – sorrel – is completely new to me, even though it is a common part of many a British meadow’s flora. At least that’s what the foragers’ books keep on telling me. I’ve kept my eyes open and only found the quite similar, though inedible, dock leaf when I’ve been on the look-out. So, I was very lucky to happen up some at the Unicorn grocery whilst I wasn’t looking for it. It’s good really, because now I know what it looks like and tastes like I’m much more likely to see it in the grassland in the future.

Sorrel is one of our forgotten vegetables, and was once part of every garden as it grew happily in the early Spring when the store of over-wintered fruit and vegetables had run out, but the new springtime plants were not yet laden with their bounties. Famine time. These days of, course, we have no gap to fill in the food year and so it has gone out of favour. Another reason for its decline in popularity is that, because of its acidic zingy sharpness, it was used a lemon substitute and is therefore required no longer. It’s very easy to grow – I shall be growing some next year, for sure. Here’s a nice article about it from The Telegraph.

This recipe uses pureed sorrel that takes seconds to make, so if you find any, either in the meadow or the greengrocers, try this to get you started. It serves six, but you can decrease the amounts if you don’t have enough sorrel (or people!).

First boil six eggs for 6 minutes exactly (unless they are large, then boil for 7), this will achieve a boiled egg with well-cooked whites but still squidgy yolks. Whilst they are boiling, prepare 8 ounces of sorrel by rinsing, draining and removing the stalks just as for spinach. Add the leaves to a saucepan that’s over a moderate heat, after a few seconds it will reduce to a dark green puree, then add salt and pepper and 3 ounces of butter. Keep warm. Now fry six slices of bread in butter or oil until crisp, and cut into triangles (12 altogether). Now arrange the ingredients in a bowl or serving plate: sorrel first, then the eggs (whole or halved) and then the fried bread. Finally decorate with orange wedges (which I forgot to do!).


#164 Sorrel with Eggs – 7/10. I really enjoyed this usual and forgotten vegetable. The flavour was intense and was tempered well with the oily bread and creamy yolks of the eggs; it could be best described as lemon but with a strange astringency, like that of green rhubarb or raw gooseberries. It would be delicious with fish I expect. This is the only recipe that uses sorrel in English Food, but I am on the look out for other recipes elsewhere.

#163 Wild Apricot Fool or Ice Cream

Seeing as we’d had a very un-summery meal of beef and dumplings, I thought I’d better do something nice and cool and refreshing for pudding. This fool is classed as a winter fool by Jane Grigson, I assume because it has dried fruit rather than fresh fruit in it. However, she says it can also be made into an ice cream, transforming into a summer pud.

It uses an ingredient previously unknown to me – dried apricots; not the semi-dried apricots you get from the supermarket, but whole, tiny completely dry ones from Asian supermarkets. They really are rock-hard dry so make sure you soak them in cold water overnight before you use them.

In case you didn’t know what to look for –

the apricots in their dry state

This recipe uses six ounces (dry weight) of the apricots.

Simmer the soaked apricots in their soaking water for 5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and boil their soaking liquor down to a syrup. Meanwhile, remove the flesh, reserving the stones, and mash it into a coarse puree. Crack open the reserved stones, to reveal the kernels, chop them roughly and add those to the puree. When the soaking liquor is syrupy add that too and allow to cool. Add some icing sugar and lemon juice to bring out the flavours, if needed. Beat ½ pint of whipping or double cream and fold this into the puree. If you are making this into a fool put into glasses and chill, or alternatively pour into an ice cream maker.

Griggers suggests serving it with almond biscuits, but I went one better – I served them in ice cream cones with home make monkey blood (that’s raspberry sauce to you).


#163 Wild Apricot Fool or Ice Cream – 6/10. Very nice, though lacked flavour; this was, I think, due to it being cold and therefore requiring a lot more sugar and lemon juice than I gave it, as it tasted fine before freezing. That said it did have a nice honey-like taste and the chopped kernels were delicious and made it texturally more interesting than a bog-standard ice cream. I think the recipe was best suited to a fool rather than an ice cream. With a few changes though, this could be bumped up to be a 7 or 8 out-of-ten ice cream.

FYI: apricot kernels contain potent anti-cancer drugs and have been used to treat tumours since the 6th Century. They are also believed to cleanse the respiratory system and have been used to treat coughs. Combine this with the super-high carotenoid content of the apricot flesh, and you’ve got a serious super-food on your hands, mister!

#162 Horseradish Sauce

To accompany the salt beef, I made this classic accompaniment, though it goes very well with smoked fish such as trout.

It’s very easy to make: lightly whip ¼ pint of double cream and stir in 2 tablespoons of grated horseradish, then season with salt, pepper and the juice of up to half a lemon. It’s important to just lightly whip the cream as the acids in the lemon make it much thicker. Griggers also make the point that the outside of the horseradish root is alot hotter than the centre, so if you like it milder, grate across the root, rather than down the side.

FYI: horseradish can be found growing wild in most places in Europe and has been cultivated by the Egyptians and Romans and, according to Greek Myth, Apollo was told by the Delphic Oracle that it was worth it’s weight in gold, though why I don’t know.

Again, no pic, sorry – my camera’s doing some funny things

#162 Horseradish Sauce – 6.5/10. This very pleasant and creamy, though lacked the punch I expected, even though I was pretty generous with the horseradish. It was ok, but I think I prefer a jar of proprietary horseradish sauce! Is this bad of me!?

#161 Boiled Salt Beef and Dumplings

After the reasonable success of the ham I cured, I was keen to try something else so I went for salt beef. You can of course just buy your beef already salted, but if you want to have a go at your own, follow this link. My friend Evelyn had also made a request for it a while back, and although beef and dumplings are in no way summery I thought I’d do it anyway.

Put your beef – silverside or brisket – in a large pot and pour in enough water to just cover it. Bring it slowly to a simmer – taste the water after 10 minutes, if it’s salty change the water and start again. Add 2 unpeeled onions that have been studded with four cloves each, a small piece of nutmeg, two blades of mace and a generous seasoning of black pepper. Once the beef is simmering turn it down to the lowest heat possible so that the tiniest amount of bubbling occurs. Now cover and leave to simmer – the time depends upon the weight of the meat, to calculate it use the same method as on this entry, but a 3 pound piece of beef will take 3 ½ hours in total.

Toward the end of the cooking time, make your dumpling mixture: sift 4 ounces of plain flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt into a bowl and stir in 2 ounces of shredded suet (i.e. packet suet). Add just enough water to make a slightly stick dough and with floured hands make little balls of the dough (about ten, I’d say). Add a little grated horseradish in their centres. Alternatively use a cube of fried bread or mix chopped parsley into the dough.

When the beef is cooked, remove it and let it rest. Add the dumplings and let them poach for 10-15 minutes.

Serve it with gravy made using some of the cooking liquor and glazed carrots, says Lady Griggers. I did peas too and some horseradish sauce.

#161 Boiled Salt Beef and Dumplings – 8/10. Really delicious and definitely the best of the cured meat thus far. The beef was flaky and pink with the saltiness perfectly balanced with the aromatic herbs, spices and sugars from the brine cure and stock. I’ve never bought salt beef, so I’ve nothing to compare it to, but I shall be definitely doing this one again, but perhaps during wintertime! The dumplings were okay – they could have been fluffier, however, they were cooking for longer than 10 minutes as I lost track of time getting everything else ready. Oopsey!

Sorry there’s no photo – I took one, but for some reason it’s no longer on my camera’s memory! Double oopsey!!

#160 Rice Cake

Every Wednesday at work, one of us tries to make a cake and bring it in so we can all get together for a chat; something we rarely get to do. We have been a bit slack as a department recently, so I thought I’d make one. This seemed perfect, I had all the ingredients in, it seemed a little unusual, but basically a normal cake mixture, so great stuff… I expected this cake to be a real hidden gem – Jane Grigson write quite a lengthy entry on this cake and she says that she was easily converted from the ‘traditional’ flour-based cake.

Here’s how to make a rice cake:

Cream 4 ounces of butter with 8 ounces of caster sugar and beat in three eggs one at a time. Stir in 8 ounces of rice flour and the grated zest of a lemon. Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 7 inch cake tin and bake at 180⁰C for anywhere between 50 minutes and an hour and a half. Jane doesn’t say to fill it with anything, so I used raspberry jam and Butter Cream I.

The world’s most boring cake:

you saw it here first!

#160 Rice Cake – 2/10. Totally crap! It was so bad I didn’t even bother taking it into work. The cake was so hard and dry, there was no spongy texture as there was no raising agent or gluten there. Also, because of the lack of gluten, the grains of flour remained granular. Bad, bad, bad! Its only saving grace was the jam and butter cream, and I did the butter cream wrong!!

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves

Here at Grigson Towers, we don’t like to let anything go to waste, and our tasty fishes are certainly something that should be at treated with a huge amount of respect. So do your bit by making your mackerel (or herring) go further by asking your friendly fishmonger to fish out the fishes’ roes when he guts them. After all you have paid for them anyway.

There’s quite a few roe recipes in English Food and I’ve tried them, so I thought I’d better get started. This one seemed straight-forward and is very similar (and cheaper!) to the oyster loaves recipe, so I was sort of on familiar ground. The good thing about this recipe is that you can reduce the amounts accordingly depending upon how many roes you have – in fact I only had enough to make one!

FYI: In case you didn’t know (and don’t let this put you off) the soft roe of a fish is the sperm, and therefore from a male fish. They’ve gone out of favour, with some fishmongers just throwing them away instead of selling them! Another thing we need to try and bring back, people!

Prepare 8 small rolls of bread just like for the oyster loaves. To make the filling, soften 3 shallots or 3 tablespoons of onion in butter over a low heat. Add ½ pint of double cream and cook until it thickens. Cut the roes into one centimetre cubes and place them in the cream and allow them to poach gently – this only takes a few minutes. Add parsley and chives and season with salt, black pepper and Cayenne pepper, plus a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the creaminess. Spoon the mixture into the hollow loaves and serve immediately.

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves – 7.5/10. I really enjoyed my first foray into roe gastronomy, though a dated dish, you could modernise it easily by serving it on toast instead, or something. They are very soft and have a very delicate flavour. Try them, don’t fear the fish sperm – you’ll like the flavour and texture – and, after all, you’ll happily eat fish eggs (or bird eggs), so what’s the difference?