During this rubbish weather (God, I am so English – all I do is talk about the weather) there is nothing like a good pie. The Farmers Market in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens just happened to be on as I was walking through and I saw a stall selling some very nice free range farm chickens and so I snapped one up. I then consulted the book for chicken recipes and decided on this. It seemed a little bit like the pork and apple pie I did a while ago in that there is no gravy or sauce per se but runny juices instead. I was slightly concerned about this as it was a major short-falling in the pork pie. Anyways, I have cook everything in this book whether I like it or not.
It is best to start this pie the day before you want to cook it, or at least in the morning. Start by placing a roasting or boiling chicken in a close-fitting pan along with a quartered, unpeeled onion, two tablespoons of chopped celery (a stalk, in other words), a bouquet garni and some salt and pepper. Place a close fitting lid on top, bring to a boil and simmer until cooked. The cooking time will be dependent upon the type of chicken you have – around 45 minutes for roasters, and at least an hour for boilers. Let the chicken cool in the stock (leave overnight if you want). Remove it and strip the carcass, cutting the meat into nice chunks. Skim the stock – if it seems a bit bland, add more seasoning or return the bones to the pot and simmer again. You could also reduce the stock after straining it too.
Arrange the pieces of chicken in a pie dish along with 4 ounces of sliced ox tongue that has been cut up. Next, wash, trim and slice a load of leeks – Griggers says eight in all, but I reckon that that it all depends on the size of your pie dish. Either way, blanch them for two minutes in salted water before draining and adding to the pie dish. Chop two tablespoons of parsley and sprinkle that over and then ladle the stock over the lot until it comes up about half way up the chicken and veg. Season well. Cover with shortcrust pastry (the amount will depend on the dimensions of your pie dish). To make sure you get a good seal, when you roll it out cut a strip of pastry and glue it around the rim of the dish with some beaten egg. Brush glued pastry with more egg and lay the pastry over. Press it down, make a central hole and brush the top with egg. Bake at 230⁰C for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180-190⁰C for another 20. Allow to cool a little before you eat it. It had it with mash and peas.
#209 Chicken and Leek Pie from Wales. This was a really good pie – the stock was very flavoursome and ensured the chicken remained very moist. I’m not sure what the point of the tongue was though. It is also very nice cold – the stock cools to become a nice, rich jelly; though that kind of thing is not to everybody’s taste. Give it a crack! 7/10.
It seems that the further north you go in England, the more desserts and teatime treats using currants and raisins there are: Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes are the ones that spring to mind. I’ve never heard of one from Cumberland before; funny, since there are actually two recipes from there in English Food.
I think these things were popular because they are very comforting and definitely a wintertime food, and it is grim Up North, as we know. It has been particularly grim at the minute – particularly around the Cumberland area – so I thought I’d give one a go. The best thing about the recipe is that it is a very good store-cupboard pud – I didn’t have to buy anything, I had it all in! Tiny things please tiny minds.
First make some shrtcrust pastry using 2 ounces each of butter and lard, 8 ounces of plain flour and some milk. Roll out half and line a deep oven-proof plate. Now make the filling: weigh out 3 ½ ounces of golden syrup. To do this, put a saucepan on your scales and tare them before adding the syrup. Add an ounce of butter to the pan and warm though gently so that the butter melts and the syrup becomes runny. Now stir in 5 ounces of either raisins or currants (or a mixture, you devil), an ounce of chopped peel, an ounce of ground almonds, ¼ teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, allspice and salt and finally 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Use some egg white to brush around the edges of the pastry, roll out the last of the pastry and cover it. Crimp the edges, make a hole in the centre and then brush with more egg white and sprinkle with some caster sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 220⁰C, then turn the oven down to 190⁰C and bake for a further 30 minutes. She don’t say, but serve it with some cream, innit.
#208 Cumberland Plate Tart. Just what the doctor ordered! I really like this sort of dessert, but many can’t abide currants and raisins and things like that these days, so they are going out of fashion which is a big shame. What can be bad about sweet fruit, moist almonds and good old golden syrup? Bring ‘em back I say. 6.5/10
Stewed steak is one of the things that remind me of being a kid back home in Pudsey, Leeds. My Mum used to do stewed steak with dumplings sometimes and it was delicious. It’s odd, however, that I’ve never had it anywhere other then my Mum’s; nobody else seems to eat it. I don’t what it has to do with Sussex either. This recipe is pretty much exactly what my Mum did, except for two main differences: this uses one big piece of steak and has additional flavourings. This is a very easy recipe and perfect for these times of filthy weather that seems to keep your socks permanently soggy and your mind on sunnier times. Give it a go.
Start off with a nice two to two-and-a-half pound slice of either top rump or chuck steak. Make sure it is well trimmed. Season both sides well with salt and pepper and coat with flour. Place it a well fitting ovenproof dish, and cover with sliced onion; use a large one. Now add six tablespoons each of stout and port and two tablespoons of either mushroom ketchup or wine vinegar. Cover tightly with foil and place in an oven preheated to 140⁰C for three hours. That’s it! Serve with mashed potato and field mushrooms, says Griggers.
#207 Sussex Stewed Steak. This took me right back to my childhood. The delicious thin gravy with a hint of rich booze and wonderfully tender beef cooked slowly – it’s what rainy November evenings were made for. 8.5/10.
Christmas is a-coming! The consumerist nightmare has begun and there’s nothing like it to kill the Christmas spirit. The best way to counteract this is to make some lovely Christmas fayre. The Christmas cake is done and the only other necessity for the encroaching festivities is (in my opinion) mincemeat. I made Mrs Beeton’s recipe last year and gave a potted history of the foodstuff (see this post). This year I’m making orange mincemeat; it better be nice because I really liked Beeton’s. It should be good though; there’s plenty of orange juice and one of my favourite boozy drinks ever – Cointreau. Of course, we shall have to wait a while before I review them (although I’m sure I’ll crack a jar open well before Christmas).
If you want to make your own mincemeat, make sure that you make it at least two weeks before you want to use it as it needs that long to mature. If you’ve never made it, have a go, it really is very easy – there is no cooking involved, just some chopping, measuring and mixing.
This recipe makes absolutely loads of mincemeat – around ten jars – so reduce the quantities if you want to make less. To make it, simply mix together the following ingredients together in the following order in a huge bowl:
8 ounces of candied orange and lemon peel
2 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and chopped
One pound of chopped suet (use fresh, if you can)
One pounds each of raisins, currants and sultanas
One pound of dark brown sugar
1 freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces of blanched slivered almonds
The juice and grated rind of two oranges
Four tablespoons of brandy
Eight tablespoons of orange liqueur (e.g. Cointreau)
Pack the mincemeat well into sterilised jars and leave for at least two weeks. (FYI to sterilise the jars, put them along with their lids on trays in an oven set to 110⁰C for 25 minutes, pot whilst they are still warm.)
There are several recipes in English Food that involve tongue; a bit of the animal now much ignored by most, including me. It’s one of the few things I’ve never tried, so I thought I should make sure my first foray into tongue cookery a simple one. Potting is nice and easy as long as you have a food processor or blender, plus I always need sandwich fillings for work. It uses eight ounces of cooked tongue – this can be calf’s or ox tongue, pickled or fresh. The calf’s tongue that I got from Winter Tarn was exactly eight ounces in weight after it had been cooked and trimmed. However, if tongue is not your bag then you can use beef, salt beef, venison or any other game.
Chop the calf’s tongue and place in a blender or food processor – use a blender for a smooth finish, a food processor for a slightly coarse one – along with four or five ounces of clarified butter, some salt, pepper and mace (if you are potting a different meat, you could use a different spice or even a couple anchovy fillets). Blend until the right consistency and place in pots, making sure you pack them down well and leave flat surface. Pour more clarified butter over to form a seal.
#205 Potted Tongue. In Yorkshire, potted beef is still quite popular, but for me, the tongue did not work quite as well as I’d hoped. The tongue tasted okay when it had been cooked, but perhaps stronger tasting cured ox tongue would have been more appropriate. Oh well, never mind – you can’t win ‘em all. 4/10.
Jane Grigson describes how to cook and prepare ox tongue in some detail in English Food as well as providing several recipes. Most use pickled ox tongue, but for some it is not specified and I had a calf tongue to use. Many recipes require a cooked, boiled tongue (including the next recipe), but there is no guidance on the preparation of calf tongue. I did a bit of reading and came up with my own method which I am now imparting upon you good people, natch.
The tongue before cooking
Start by soaking the tongue for six hours, changing the water a couple of times. Place it in a closely-filling pan with some cold water to just cover along with an onion studded with two cloves, a chopped carrot, a stick of celery, a bay leaf, a sprig of time, a bay leaf, some crushed peppercorns and a teaspoon of salt. Bring slowly to boil, skimming away any grey foam that may rise. Turn the heat as low as possible, cover, and simmer gently for an hour (I erred on the side caution and cooked it for best part of an hour and a half, but it was definitely over-cooked). Remove the tongue and as soon as it is cool enough to handle, peel the skin away and cut away any gristly bits and blood vessels. The tongue can then be used as required in your recipe.
Here is another recipe from Alexis Soyer – the first celebrity chef and all-round (though slightly pompous) good guy. I have mentioned him before in previous posts. I thought I would try this recipe as a test for the veal I bought from Winter Tarn. This seemed like a good mid-week meal as it is quick to cook that seemed nice and satisfying; just what one needs of a Wednesday in rainy Manchester.
Begin by chopping a small onion and a clove of garlic and softening them in a generous ounce of butter. Once soft, turn up the heat to brown them slightly and then add 8 ounces of minced veal. Fry until it has browned slightly. Now add some seasonings, herbs and spices: a rounded teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of black pepper, a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg and a teaspoon of thyme leaves. Next stir through a heaped teaspoon of flour and when that has browned slightly pour in a quarter of a pint of milk (full fat if you can!). Simmer very gently for fifteen to twenty minutes until the mince has become soft and unctuous in its now creamy sauce. Whilst that is happening poach an egg and fry a slice of bread per person. Taste the veal and add more seasonings and ‘sharpen it’ with some lemon juice or white wine vinegar.
Place a slice of fried bread on each plate, then a helping of the veal and finally a poached egg on top.
#204 Minced Veal and Eggs. What seems like a bizarre recipe turned out to be absolutely delicious, the delicate milky veal melds perfectly with the milk in the sauce and the fried bread and poached eggs added to the comfort food kick that I really required. Great stuff. Give it a go; quick and easy. 8/10.