The blog has been a little quiet of late because of a combination of business and broken car. This means that I’ve not been able to explore St Louis’s butcher’s shops, markets et cetera anywhere near as much as I’d hoped this month. However, there are still a few simp recipes to do in the book and this is one of them. I had hoped to not do any recipes from the Teatime chapter of the book because I have done so many and there are so many under-represented chapters. However, beggars cannot be choosers, so I made these walnut biscuits that are very similar to the sugar thins I made ages ago. Don’t feel guity about eating a load of these either; walnuts have more antioxidants than any other nut. You might end up a fat little piggy, but you’ll have none of those pesky free radicals aging the skin of your three chins.
Start off by creaming together seven ounces of softened butter with five ounces of caster sugar. Next, beat in a large egg and then eight ounces of self-raising flour and three ounces of chopped walnuts.
Spoon a third of the mixture onto a rolled out piece of cling film and roll it up tightly to form a sausage shape that is about 2 inches in diameter.
Repeat with the rest of the mixture. Put the sausages of dough in the fridge to harden up over-night. You can freeze them like this too.
Next day, peel away the cling film and slice up the dough thinly and place on baking sheets. Bake for no more than ten minutes 190°C (375°F).
Griggers reckon they go well with coffee, and I am sure they do, but as I am not allowed to drink coffee anymore (Doc’s orders), it’ll have to be a tea.
#308 Walnut Biscuits. A nice, crisp biscuit that is sweet and crumbly; it certainly would go with unsweetened coffee or tea. The only problem with them is that there weren’t enough walnuts. I would go to four or maybe five ounces of walnuts. 7/10
I mentioned in the last post that people don’t make their own gravy anymore, well the same goes for stuffing. I have to admit, I don’t often make stuffing for roast poultry normally, though I have for the blog before. Every time I do, it comes out delicious and is always better than even the poshest pre-made supermarket pap. So I thought I was well overdue making some (which I think is also called dressing in the USA, non..?).
This one, I thought looked interesting – with its earthy hazelnuts and piquant-sweet preserved ginger; just the thing for a climate that is never really wintry. After all, the main reason that I haven’t cooked more food like this in Houston is because it is so bloody hot all the time and I don’t necessarily want roast meats. Anyways, this one seemed good and light and reasonably summery.
Griggers makes a point of highlighting the quality of hazelnut required for the recipe – pre-roasted and chopped hazelnuts are fine, she says, but you really want some slow roasted whole Italian ones from Avellino near Vesuvius, where they have been grown since Roman times. I’ll just pop over and fetch some. I couldn’t get those of course, but I did get Roman ones, so that pretty good I reckon, bearing in mind where I am!
Julian of Norwich with Hazelnut. For some reason.
If you want to be truly old-school, you can use cobnuts, which can still be found growing around the southern counties of England, in particular Kent. FYI: cobnuts were the original nut used in the game of conkers before the horse chestnut was introduced into Britain.
Stuffing is the easiest thing in the world to make. To start chop a large onions and soften it in two ounces of butter – keep it on a medium heat with a lid to prevent to browning. Once cooked, add the following ingredients in the following order: four ounces of fresh breadcrumbs; two ounces of toasted, chopped hazelnuts; four knobs of preserved ginger*, chopped; grated rind of half a lemon; the juice of a lemon; one large beaten egg; salt and pepper; and two tablespoons of chopped parsley. Now you can use the stuffing for whatever you like. If this is for turkey, you may need to double, or even treble the amounts given here.
If you are using it to stuff a bird, make sure you weigh it after it has been stuffed so you can include the extra weight in the cooking time. Also, it is best to stuff the neck end rather than the cavity, as the stuffing doesn’t go stodgy; just loosen the skin and stuff it in, securing it all by folding the neck skin under the bird. Any left can go into the cavity – but only pack it loosely.
*If you can’t get preserved ginger then use ginger preserve (i.e. ginger jam), or miss it out entirely and replace it with the chopped liver of the bird(s) and a heaped teaspoon of thyme.
#277 Hazelnut Stuffing for Poultry and Lamb. Absolutely delicious and definitely the best stuffing so far in the book! It was sweet and earthy and the nuts had gone wonderfully soft and translucent, giving out their flavours into the rest of the mixture. The lemon and ginger lifted it all very well and stopped it from being too heavy. This is going into my everyday repertoire. 9/10.
I needed to test out my oven’s baking capabilities so I thought I would go for a tried-and-tested pound cake. There are five pound cake recipes in English Food and this nut cake is the final one. They all have the same basic recipe, but this one being a nut cake, required two ounces of chopped nuts (I went for walnuts) as well as two tablespoons of strong coffee or rum (I went for coffee) extra. A pound cake needs icing and Griggers suggests making the one that is given for the walnut cake recipe from many moons ago. However, there is such an exciting selection of frostings available in American supermarkets that I had to try one. I bought a vanilla. Talking of vanilla, I got to test out the concentrated vanilla sugar from the last post and used half vanilla and half normal sugar.
#267 Nut Cake. This was a good cake – the vanilla sugar was very successful I thought. Although never the most exciting, pound cakes don’t disappoint either, so all was good. It was a bit dry, but I think I over-did mine a little, so it isn’t Griggers’ fault. 6.5/10.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day here in the US and Joan and Dave (my bosses) very kindly invited round to their house for the feast (check out Joan’s blog here). As it is was my first ever Thanksgiving dinner I was very excited about the fayre that would be there to feast upon. I was not disappointed: roast turkey and cranberries I knew would feature, but there was also loads of other New World things too: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes plus exciting stuffings and good old Brussels sprouts. In fact it wasn’t that far removed from the British Christmas Dinner, so I was on reasonably familiar territory. The only exception being the mashed sweet potato with melted marshmallows on the top: I am not used to this merging of the sweet and savory in such brazen fashion!
Attending the dinner gave me the perfect excuse to cook some of the vegetable sides from the Vegetable chapter; not something I often do when I’m cooking a meal from the book as they are sometimes complicated and add rather a lot more stress to the occasion.
Chestnuts as a Vegetable seemed the appropriate choice for the time of year, plus I could make it in advance the night before. Griggers doesn’t mention anything about the recipe: just a list of ingredients and a method. I assume it is there because we don’t use them as a vegetable anymore and expect she wants us to start doing it again. But should we?
You will need a pound of chestnuts for this recipe. Begin by nicking each chestnut end to end and plunge them into boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain them and quickly peel them by holding one in a dishcloth or oven glove and using your other hand, remove the shell and skin with a small knife. This is easier said than done; the skin came off just where skin meets back-of-thumbnail. It hurt. I would take Joan’s advice and buy chestnuts that have already been peeled. Anyways, next gently fry a chopped onion and a finely chopped clove of garlic in two ounces of butter, cover the pan and cook until they are soft and transparent. Meanwhile, cut two ounces of bacon rashers cut into strips – use any bacon you like; I used maple-smoked. Also, peel, core and chop two Cox’s pippin apples (these are not around in the US, so I used Granny Smiths as they seemed appropriately tart). Try to not allow anything to burn or brown. Turn up the heat in the pan and add the bacon, a couple of minutes later add the apple. Fry until they soften. Finally chop the chestnuts into chunky pieces and add them along with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture begins to meld together.
You don’t have to serve this with just turkey – it will go well with pork, salt pork or veal.
#262 Chestnuts as a Vegetable. I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I decided in the end that I liked it. I was unsure because I tasted it on its own. However, when it was eaten with some turkey and gravy etc, it really worked. We may not use them as a vegetable anymore, I suspect because the preparation is so tricky, time-consuming and sore! But now that tinned or vacuum-packed chestnuts are easy to get, they really should be brought back – they are part of our food heritage after all. Sweet chestnuts have been actively cultivated since Roman times and can be found not just peeled, but candied and ground into flour. They are absolutely delicious roasted under the grill or by the fire, but let’s try something different this year, hm? 7.5/10
This one is a piece of piss to make and comes from a chap who owns (or, I presume owned now, as this book is quite old) a restaurant in Cirencester. Griggers likes it as it’s a nice classy version of chocolate cornflake or Rice Krispie cakes (though try my Mum’s recipe).
For this you need chocolate (plain or dark or a mixture), butter, nuts (any type – I used almonds and hazelnuts which are essential, you could use walnuts but peanuts are “right out”) and digestive biscuits. Weight out equal amounts of chocolate, butter and digestives and half the total weight of nuts. Roast the nuts for about 25 minutes in a low oven and remove any skins by rubbing them with a cloth, then chop roughly. Melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat. Keep an eye on them whilst you chop up the biscuits into small squares – don’t worry if there’s loads of crumbs, this is a good thing. Once the chocolate and butter have melted, mix in the nuts and biscuits. Pour into a lined tin so that it’s about a finger thick and cool in the fridge. Cut the cake into squares or fingers and keep cool.
#120 Mr Frost’s Chocolate Cake – 6/10. Good old Mr Frost. The Grigson was right in that this is much better than crappy old cornflake cakes. It could’ve been improved with a few sultanas, but the good thing about this is that you can add whatever you fancy – crystallised ginger would be good, or marshmallows maybe.