Thursday, 24 December 2009
Balfe Junior takes on bird number 1.
Balfe Senior goes straight in for the goose, and makes light work of it too...
Taking shape... Our de-boned goose, legs akimbo, and a duck in the background, heading for the same fate.
A dab hand with a needle and thread.
Excellent craftsmanship. Mr Fearnley Whittingstall would be proud.
A very tasty terrine, made from all the off cuts. Just like Nigel's.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
All the ingredients are available in supermarkets, health food shops, and lots of local convenience stores. I got mine from the very lovely Unpackaged in Clerkenwell, where you get good products, a strong dose of nostalgia (great at this time of year), and a warm sense of ethical well being all thrown in to the deal. Definitely beats braving the crowds on Oxford Street.
I used Bill Granger's recipe for cinnamon crunch muesli as the basis for this, and so far it's worked out really well. Aside from the cranberries the key addition is candied clementines. You might be able to buy these in some shops, but even if not, they're simple to make, although you need to do so in advance. If you make extra, you can use them to infuse cream for home-made truffles, decorate cakes or tarts, dip in chocolate as festive treats, or just hang them on your tree.
All the rich flavours of the dried fruit, nuts and spices make this granola great sprinkled over yogurt, poached fruits, or even ice cream, although unless you wake up very hungry - unlikely at this time of year - you'll do well to manage a whole bowl full for breakfast. As with many of these seasonal recipes, it also fills the house with wonderful scents of Christmas as you're baking...
Makes enough for 15 or more small servings
For the candied clementines
100g caster sugar
2 clementines, cut into thin (3mm) slices
a handful cloves
For the granola
125g unsalted butter
40g dark brown sugar
2 tsp honey
2 tsp cinnamon
half a nutmeg, grated
300g rolled oats
a handful flaked almonds
a handful pumpkin seeds
150g mixed nuts - brazils, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc, roughly chopped
75g dried cranberries
75g dried sultanas
First, make the candied clementine; ideally you want to leave these to dry out over night, so do this the day before if you remember. Make a stock syrup by dissolving the sugar in enough water to cover by twice the volume, and bring to the boil. I also added half a dozen cloves to infuse as it was heating. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slice your clementines, removing any pips as you go. Remove from the heat, and add the orange slices to your syrup, and leave them to soak for ten minutes. Preheat the oven to 50 degrees C.
Remove, and place on a baking tray, lined with baking parchment. Stud a few cloves in each slice, then leave to dry out in the oven for a good few hours, as long as you can really. Switch the oven off, and leave it over night. Remove the cloves, and cut each slice into four or more pieces.
Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Melt the butter, sugar, honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large pan. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, and add the oats, seeds, almond flakes and nuts. Stir well so everything is coated with a slight gloss from the butter.
Transfer to a baking try lined with parchment, and spread out evenly. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, and checking it's doneness as you go. When it starts the oats start to go golden brown, it's ready. Remove from the oven, stir in the clementine pieces, cranberries and sultanas, and leave to cool completely before storing. It'll keep in an air tight container for a good couple of weeks.
Monday, 14 December 2009
Sunday 13th December: The day that the spirit of Christmas swept it's way through the door at For Those That Love To Eat HQ. We had designated it our day to celebrate, Norwegian style, as if it were the 24th...
The tree fills the room with the scent of pine, as if we lived in the middle of a Scandinavian forest, not an arterial East End bus route. We wrap it in fairy lights, place presents underneath, and balance gingerbread snowmen and clove-studded clementines between it's branches. Our friends have arrived, and a long, plentiful evening of food, wine and festive cheer lay ahead of us. As we raise a glass to one-another's health, Judy Garland serenades us from the stereo. Here's to the start of our Merry Little Christmas. All that's missing is an open fire...
A bright winter salad
This vibrant, lively-looking dish was inspired jointly by Nigel Slater's ever-reliable column in the Observer, and Philippa Davies' exceptional Christmas menu at Mudchute Kitchen. Whilst Nigel pairs his down to little more than celeriac, red cabbage and some citrus, Philippa opts for the inclusion of duck, plenty of herbs and a balsamic dressing.
Mine is something of a half way house. It's by no means as austere as Nigel's minimalist effort, yet it's a different beast entirely to the Mudchute creation. Principally, there is no meat – there will be plenty of that in the next course - so instead, I roast chunks of winter squash with cinnamon and nutmeg, almost to the point of caramelising. This gives the salad a nutty richness and smooth, buttery textures to contrast with the crisp shards of red cabbage. More bight comes from finely sliced fennel. The little aniseed flavour that comes through is balanced with sweet citrus from slices of orange, peppery rocket, toasted walnuts and scattered with ruby jewels of pomegranite.
With more colours than a tin-full of Quality Streets, it sums up everything a festive starter should be; light and crisp yet still indulgent, with enough flavour to perk up the taste buds in anticipation of what's next to come. And when you're lucky enough to get all the flavours on one fork full, it really does taste exactly like Christmas.
Serves six as a starter, two or three as a main
a small winter squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
a fennel bulb, sliced as thinly a you possibly can
a quarter of a red cabbage, shredded
two oranges, plus the juice of half another
a bag of rocket leaves
a handful walnuts, toasted
the seeds of one pomegranite
a tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsps olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Scatter the squash on a baking tray, turn them in olive oil, season, and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and freshly-grated nutmeg. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until the tips of the corners have crisped and taken on a dark brown colour.
Meanwhile, slice the cabbage and fennel, either by hand or with a mandolin, and toss together in a large bowl. Zest the oranges, and add the bowl. Slice the off the skin, and slice the flesh across the segments so you have a series of orange disks, and add to the bowl, along with the rocket, walnut, and pomegranite. Season, and toss together the olive, vinegar, and orange juice. Serve immediately.
Roast rib of beef with bernaise sauce, potatoes roast in duck fat, braised red cabbage
If there is ever a day when when I have to choose my last supper, my decision would likely look something like this. In my kitchen, beef is served rare - Bloody as hell, as Vincent's waiter put it in Pulp Fiction – and this is no exception. The meat is massaged with olive oil, and covered in coarse ground pepper, before being seared in a hot griddle pan for three minutes on each side. After that, it goes into a hot oven, say 180, for another 15 minutes. Only when it is removed is it seasoned with salt, as sits for it's five minutes of rest before carving. The bone will have browned, and the outlying seams of fat will have begun to render, but in the centre the meat will still be soft and red-pink.The trick with the potatoes is to par-boil them, almost until they fall apart, then add to a tray full of hot duck fat, along with rosemary, salt, pepper, and heads of garlic, sliced through the centre, across the cloves.
The cabbage gives a fruity addition to the plate, braised for a good hour or more in red wine and balsamic, with a few dots of butter, slices of pear and a single cinnamon stick to keep it company.
It's a rich plateful, to which some fresh, bouncy watercress leaves are a welcome addition. With a pot of warm bernaise sauce in the centre of the table, this is about as indulgent as a main course gets, and in my opinion, it couldn't be better.
Chocolate and apricot tart with vanilla yogurt and rose petals
Quite how we managed this, I'm not entirely sure. But manage it we did, and second helpings too. It's a wonderfully decadent dish, which calls out for yogurt, as opposed to cream, to cut through the rich chocolate. The rose petals add a ceremonious touch, and also fill the air with perfume as you're about to take your first bight. Dark chocolate heaven on a plate.Now, anyone for cheese?
Chocolate and apricot tart
Melt the butter and chocolate together over a bain marie of simmering water. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they're pale, light and fluffy. Fold in the chocolate and butter, one third at a time, then pour into the pastry case.
Sunday, 13 December 2009
As well as a celeriac gratin, with blue cheese and walnuts, there was a spread of salads including a sumptuous platter of warm, earthy beetroots, accompanied by lentils and goats cheese, all subtly swapping flavours as they melted into one another; crisp, zingy 'pickled' cucumber with dill, fennel tops, and shallots; a parsnip remoulade, moistened with a light creme fraiche dressing, sweetened with honey and dates, and topped with fresh chesnuts; a show-stopping bowlful of pears, wood-roasted with butter and cinnamon, and nestled in a bed of watercress.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Monday, 30 November 2009
It's dark outside, but my little corner of Hackney is brightened by bowls of late-autumn fruits adorning the room, which I will later turn into a chutney; rust-coloured apples on the table in font of me; bags bursting with dates, sultanas and cranberries; a plate of plums piled so high, they look as though they are planning imminent escape from their porcelain home. On the stove, a smoked ham hock I bought the previous afternoon is making friends with a chunk of Iberico bone in the stock pot. It will form the basis of our supper, in a Basque-style stew with chicken, chickpeas, soft, sticky rice, and plump, jet-black olives.
And to cap it all, the room is filled with the warming scent of freshly baked bread, so comforting it's as if a blanket has been wrapped around the senses. Two loaves sit radiating on the rack. One is packed with pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, which we'll snack on later, keeping our tummies and tastebuds occupied before the stew emerges from the oven.The other is a sweeter variation, filled with dates, walnuts and honey. It's intended for breakfast, but who could resist a slice or two fresh from the oven, with dough so warm it melts the butter almost before I have spread it from one side to the other...
Date and walnut bread
Despite having made a few loaves in my time, I could never claim my bread is perfect. In fact, baking generally isn't my strong point. That said, there is nothing quite as fulfilling as taking a hot loaf from the oven, that you mixed, kneaded, proved and baked yourself. I use the quick method here, although many swear by proving the bread twice, first to elasticate the dough, then a second time once it's formed into a loaf to rise before baking. Don't forget also, that you can ommit the dates, walnut and honey, for a standard wholemeal loaf, or likewise, try adding any combination of other ingredients, from nuts and seeds, to roast vegetables, olives, herds and even hard cheeses.
This mix makes a robust and wholesome loaf, that is perfect for breakfast, or to keep you going throughout the afternoon. Preferably along with a cup of freshly brewed tea.
Makes one loaf
500g strong wholemeal bread flour (or half wholemeal and half strong white flour), plus extra for dusting
a tsp fast acting dried yeast / one sachet fast acting yeast
half a tsp salt
a tbsp sunflower oil
roughly 2/3 pint warm water
a good handful of walnut pieces, plus a dozen or so walnut halves
a good handful of dates, pitted and roughly chopped
2 generous tsps honey
a beaten egg, for glazing
Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, including the dates and walnuts, and make a well in the centre. Add the oil, and most of the water, and mix together with your hands. The mix should bind into a 'cloggy' dough, as opposed to a sticky mess. If it's too dry, add more water, if it's too wet, add more flour.
Turn out onto a floured work surface, and knead for a good ten minutes. By this time, the dough should be feeling springy and elastic. Work the dough into a loaf shape, and stud the top with a few walnut halves. Place in a baking try, lined with a lightly oiled sheet of grease-proof paper. Cover with a tea towel, and leave in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes or so. It should double in size. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (180 if your oven tends to cook at a high heat).
When the loaf has significantly risen, remove the tea towel, paint with the beaten egg, and put in the middle of the oven. Check it after 20 minutes - you might want to turn it around to make sure it cooks evenly - to make sure it's not over cooking. Turn the oven down to 150, and cook for another ten minutes. Check it by tapping the load - if it's done, it will make a hollow sound. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack, or just eat it!
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Christmas is undeniably approaching us, and I’m sure some of you out there are already well on your way to slipping into the Christmas spirit, even if you don’t quite like to admit it.
To celebrate the seasons, and as something of a coming of age for this blog – well I do have a new logo, a Facebook, and a Twitter, after all – I am very excited to be hosting a Feast at my beloved Mudchute Kitchen. A Festive Feast, for those that love to eat, no less. Head Chef, Philippa and I have devised a special seasonal menu that we hope has a good dose of Christmas cheer, alongside a few surprises.
It’ll be an informal affair, and we’ve managed to keep the ticket price to £20 per head, since there always seems to be so much going on at this time of year.
Email me at nbalfe [at] gmail [dot] com for tickets and any other info.
Hope to see you there!
Appetisers on arrival
Mudchute kitchen Seville marmalade and clove-studded roast ham
Celeriac and blue cheese gratin with walnut pesto
Cinnamon buttered apples and pears, with watercress and shallots
Pickled cucumber, dill and peppercorns
Roast beetroots with lentils, horseradish and goats cheese
Parsnip, date honey and chesnut salad with yogurt dressing
Wood-roast rice pudding with orange, rose, mint and cardamon
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Monday, 23 November 2009
(Thanks to Sophia for the photograph... There are plenty more here)
Pork and Game Terrine
Serves 8 or more
a medium onion
2 large cloves garlic
a thick slice of butter, about 30g
400g minced pork belly
300g pig's liver
200g mixed game - any combination of venison, hare, partridge, etc - chopped into small, irregular pieces
a large handful of fresh white breadcrumbs
two handfuls dried cranberries, soaked overnight in few tbsps brandy
the leaves from a bushy sprig of thyme
a tbsp bottled green peppercorns, rinsed
a tsp ground mace
15-20 bacon rashers
Preheat an oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Melt the butter then cook the onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the minced pork, game and liver, breadcrumbs, juniper berries, thyme, green peppercorns, mace, vermouth and brandy. Season generously with salt and ground black pepper - a good teaspoon of each. Stir thoroughly.
Line a 1.5 litre terrine with the bacon rashers, then fill with the mixture. Push it down and wrap the bacon rashers over the top, filling any gaps where necessary. Add bay leaves or juniper berries if you wish. Cover with a lid of greaseproof paper and foil then place in a deep roasting tin and pour in enough water to come halfway up the side of the terrine.
Put terrine into the oven and leave for 1½ hours. Test with a skewer for doneness. It is cooked when the skewer comes out hot (rather than just warm). Remove carefully from the oven (the hot water is easy to tip over). Leave to cool overnight before eating, and serve with melba toast.
Enough for a smallish jar
8 - 10 plums
a slender piece of ginger, about half the size of a thumb, cut into slices
2 star anice
the juice of one lemon
100g dark muscavado sugar
50g caster sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Put all ingredients in a sauce pan on a medium heat, and stir for a couple of minutes whilst the sugar dissolves. Bring up to a light simmer, and then cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the plums have softened almost to a pulp.
Check the flavour, and feel free to add more lemon juice, sugar or balsamic, depending on your tastes.
If you’re keeping the puree for a later date, then transfer to a clean jar, or alternatively dig in as soon as it’s cooled a little.
Pear and Apple ‘Remoulade'
Enough for 8 as an accompaniment
2-3 russett apples
2 ripe pears
a small bunch parsley
a few strands of chive
a few sprigs of chervil
a few sprigs of dill
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
the juice of two lemons
a splash of water
Salt and pepper
Finely chop the herbs. Slice the apples and pears as finely as you can, use a mandolin if you have one. Sprinkle them with plenty of lemon juice as you go to ensure they don’t discolour.
Whisk the mayonnaise, mustard, remaining lemon juice, water and seasoning together in a large bowl. It should be the consistency of single cream. If need be, add a little more water or lemon juice; The dressing should be sharp. Toss the apples, pears and herbs in the dressing and serve immediately.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Her charming picture has it all: The neatly laid out roots, the kitsch old butter dish, the tomb of a cookbook, the free standing fire in the background. I hope it's on the menu when I finally get around to visiting...
Over the past couple of weeks, I've baked them with cinnamon sticks and butter, turned them into a fiery spiced soup, added them to a vegetable tagine and used them as a basis for flavouring cheese cake. As I type, one is staring at me from the fruit bowl... It's destined for laksa, along with corriander, ginger, chilly, noodles and coconut milk.
Of course, they also played a starring role in the menu of the autumn Farmyard Feast, at Mudchute Kitchen, alongside bundles of other seasonal delights, including crab apples, root vegetables, mushrooms... not to mention some very appealing home-made toffee apples.
One dish that I was asked about repeatedly on the night was the Jerusalem artichoke with strained yogurt, that we served as an appetiser. At 10am on the morning of the feast, I was out in the rain, digging up the artichokes from their beds beyond the yard, as I imagine many of our evening's diners were still dosing in theirs. It's quite amazing just how much joy the sight of an off-white root, half-caked in sodden soil, can bring to a man first thing in the morning.
As for the recipe, I have to give full credit to Philippa's inspirational talents... Upon her instructions, I roast them at a scorching heat in the wood-burning stove, then tossed them in a dressing of crushed garlic, fresh red chilly, mint, and a generous few slugs of Balsamic. They were served at room temperature alongside Philippa's home-made yogurt, strained using salt and a muslin cloth for a kind of autumn kitchen garden meets Lebanese meze dish. Very, very tasty. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures, so please get in touch if you happen to have any...
We also served over-night slow-cooked octopus, with carrot puree, with crisped flat breads. Surf and turf, Mudchute Kitchen style - although the unfortunately the Octopus came from Scotland (via Billingsgate), not Limehouse basin. For lovers of offal, there was also black pudding and qual's eggs, served on homemade soda bread with farm crab apple jelly.
Ready to roast... With onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, paprika and bay.
Out of the oven and into the kitchen.
Stuffed with tomato sauce, mushroom, bacon, cheddar and curly kale.
It's amazing what a plateful like that can do for a Halloween party hangover.
Dessert... Toffee apple tart with home made yogurt, toffee apple chunks and salted caramel sauce.
Friday, 30 October 2009
So fate decided that the meal would be pescatarian, however as we set off for Billingsgate at 5.30am, the menu was still very much up for grabs. I had thought of doing a rustic variation of fish and chips, with fresh mackerel wrapped in streaky bacon, roast in the oven in amongst wedges of potato, rosemary, and whole heads of garlic, cut in half through the centre of the cloves. To serve there would have been crushed minted peas and a home-made tartare, bursting with capers and finely chopped gerkin.
When I got to the market, however, variety got the better of me, and it seemed a shame to limit our supper to just one type of fish. And so fish stew it was to be, packed full of my sea bass, haddock and mussels.
I'd previously tried a few Basque-style fish stews, however since the fish was so fresh, there was no need to over-complicate things with unnecessary chorizo or even pernod. I opted for a recipe penned by my culinary hero, Nigel Slater.
Just as I would expect from him, his recipe - with the inclusion of a couple of un-conventional ingredients - is something of a culinary masterstroke. He starts with a base of anchovies, orange peel bay leaves and thyme, which are muddled together with garlic in lightly sizzling oil. I also added leek and fennel for texture and to complement the fresh fish flavours, but these aren't essential. Next, white wine, tomato, fish stock, and the fish only when the sauce has reduced to a splutter. Finally, the mussels are dropped in, which according to Nigel, add as much flavour in their three minutes of cooking as all the other fish put together.
The result is a bold and comforting stew that is both rich yet never heavy, with beautifully evocative scents and flavours. Alongside our starter of smoked salmon, and plenty of Dad's freshly-baked Irish soda bread, it was quite a midweek supper.
Nigel Slater's Fish Stew
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
6 anchovie fillets, drained from their oil
1 or 2 curls of orange peel
1 or two bay leaves
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
1 large leek
1 large fennel
1 glass white wine
2 400g tins of tomato
500ml fish stock (I simply boiled the fish heads and bones in vegetable stock for 30 minutes, which worked very well)
400g assorted fish per person (I used sea bass and haddock)
Chopped parsley to serve
Plenty of bread to mop
Peel and finely slice the garlic and cook in a deep pan with the oil, anchovies, orange peel, bay and thyme till the garlic is golden and the anchovy has dissolved. Add the chopped leeks and sliced fennel, and cook for another 6 minutes, until the leeks are translucent.
Pour in the wine, boil rapidly for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes. When the sauce is thick and slushy, lower in the fish, firmest first. Then, once the fish is opaque and tender, add the mussels. Cover with a lid and cook for another 3 minutes until the mussels open. Serve in soup bowls, sprinkled with parsley, and plenty of fresh bread.
You could also include chorizo, before adding the leeks, and use fino instead of white wine for a more Iberian-inspired version.
P.s. If you're wondering why the picture has no mussels, it's because that's the left overs... We were too busy eating to take photos the first time around.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Billingsgate at 6am, after a five mile pelt through the East End of London. Teas for 50p in a polystyrene cup await... And then it's down to business in the market.
Bargains. They were this [***stretches arms out wide***] big.
Wheeling and dealing. Probably not your average market goers...
Alfred Endeby's smoked fish selection. Including our breakfast to be.
Our morning's work is done... Back to the Cosmic Loft!
The twilight haul. A box of smoked haddock, mussels, smoked salmon, and sea bass.
Breakfast: Poached smoked haddock, scrambled eggs with creme fraiche and chives, roast tomatoes, Irish soda bread, coffee, orange juice.
The Billingsgate bicycle boys and their breakfast. Good way to start the day...