Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sensational Scotch Eggs - originally from London... Gasp!

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Fortnum & Mason claim to have invented the Scotch egg, and have been selling it since 1738. However they may have been inspired by Nargisi kofta – a dish from the much earlier and more exotic setting of the Mogul Empire. Whatever their origins, Scotch Eggs were one of the few nice eggy things I got to cook at school and I have been addicted to them ever since. They are best consumed on the day they are made, otherwise the crust loses its crunchiness – and then, what’s the point?! These contain bacon to make them extra delicious and succulent. 

For 4 sensational Scotch eggs, you will need...
... a deep fat fryer

6 eggs (4 to boil, 2 to use in the coating)
400g good quality plain sausage meat

1 small onion, finely chopped
100g bacon lardons, (or rashers) finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon thyme, finely chopped
1 tbsp whole grain mustard (or strong Dijon / English mustard if you prefer)
60g flour
150g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

a little butter or sunflower oil for frying the onion and bacon
Sunflower oil for deep frying

Place 4 of the eggs in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 6 minutes (for a just-set egg - or longer if you prefer them done a bit more), then carefully drain away the boiling water and cover the eggs with cold water, changing it once as it becomes warm with the heat of the eggs. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, gently fry the onion in a little butter or sunflower oil until softened (about 12 minutes) and beginning to turn golden around the edges. Transfer to a mixing bowl to cool completely. Next fry the bacon, and add to the cooling onion.


Bacon makes everything better
When the onion and bacon have cooled, place the meat, cumin, herbs, and mustard in a bowl and mix well – hands are best (I keep a box of disposable food-quality gloves handy for jobs like this). Divide the mixture into four equal portions – approximately 120g each if you want to weigh them out.



Shell the eggs – my preferred way is to crack the shell, then slip a teaspoon beneath the shell and carefully work it off.

Line up 3 bowls or shallow dishes (I find pie dishes are great for this job). Put the flour into the first dish with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. In the second dish, beat the remaining two eggs together with a pinch of salt. Tip the breadcrumbs into the third dish. Lay a sheet of cling film over a chopping board and place one of the sausage meat portions on top. Cover with another sheet of cling film, then either pat with your hands or roll with a rolling pin until the meat forms a patty big enough to wrap an egg. Repeat with the remaining portions of sausage meat until you have four more or less identical patties. This helps keep the blanket of sausage meat an even consistency.
Coax the meat around the egg, thinking Rugby! not football for the shape
Now, take one of the hard-boiled eggs, dust it with the seasoned flour, then place it in the centre of a patty. Encase the egg in the sausage meat, coaxing it around the egg until it covers it evenly. (Think  rugby rather than football for the shape). Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Now begins the ‘sheep dip’ (Tip: If you use just one hand to do the dipping, it makes life a bit easier).
Flour...

Egg...

Breadcrumbs...
Dust the sausage-covered eggs with flour, drench them with beaten egg, then cover them with breadcrumbs, pressing gently to ensure maximum coverage. Return the breadcrumbed eggs to the egg bath, completely drenching them again, then return them to the breadcrumb dish, and once again, give them a generous coating, pressing gently to ensure maximum adherence. Every crumb you can manage to stick to the eggs is one more morsel of crunchiness.


Fill your deep fat fryer to the recommended level with sunflower oil. Heat the oil to 170°C and carefully add the eggs. Cook until deep golden brown (about 7 minutes), turning occasionally. Remove from the hot oil and rest them on kitchen towel for a few minutes before serving. Piccalilli is a good accompaniment.

Piccalilli is a good accompaniment.


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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Jamaican Buttermilk, Apple and Ginger Cake – resistance is futile !

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An oldie, but a goodie


When the virtue of patience was being dished out, I was too darned impatient to wait in line. If only I’d known...
... You see, the thing with Jamaican Ginger Cake is, that while it takes under an hour from start to finish, it is best wrapped and left for 24 hours for the flavours to develop.
All those spices smell so good. I know from experience that I will probably unwrap a little corner to take a peak - just to make sure the Alchemy is working... (I’ve been know to dig up seeds to see if they have started developing roots yet...).
Before you know it, I’ll be cutting a wee slice - just a taste - and that tiny taste will call for another... the irresistible warmth of the spices... the tender sticky crumb and I’ll never learn just how good it can be when I include that missing ingredient, patience!
Up the ginger quotient by increasing the amount of allspice and fresh ginger to taste. A little finely chopped stem ginger stirred into the batter also heats things up a bit.
Will I be able to resist this time? We’ll see...
For one irresistible 1 x 2lb loaf you will need...
... to preheat the oven to 160˚C
Ingredients
a little butter for greasing a 2lb loaf tin
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground allspice* (not mixed spice!)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon fine table salt 
100g treacle
100g golden syrup
100g dark brown sugar
100g butter
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
125mls buttermilk**
150g unsweetened stewed apple***
1 egg, beaten 

Method
Grease and baseline a 2lb loaf tin (or line with a loaf tin liner).
Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground spices and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Weigh the treacle and golden syrup directly into a medium saucepan and add the sugar, butter, fresh ginger and vanilla extract and place over a low heat just until the butter has melted into the other ingredients. Remove from the heat immediately – at no point should it simmer or boil.
Meanwhile, mix together the buttermilk, stewed apple and beaten egg. Add this mixture to the flour mixture in the bowl and stir with a whisk until combined into a thick batter.
Melt, mix, stir, pour - it's that simple !

Add the warm mixture from the saucepan and whisk until combined into a smooth, fairly runny batter. Pour into the prepared loaf tin and transfer to the preheated oven.
Bake for 40 minutes or until well risen and the surface bounces back when lightly pressed. A cocktail stick inserted in the middle should come out clean, with no crumbs clinging. (Replace in the oven for a further 5 minutes if necessary and test again.)
Leave in the tin until completely cold, then remove from the tin and wrap in a layer of baking paper, then in cling film. Leave for at least 24 hours for the flavours to develop before cutting into thick slices and devouring with a decent cup of tea or coffee.
It is not the most beautiful cake in the world, but a dusting of icing sugar works wonders against the dark crumb of the cake, or you could drizzle with a water icing made according to the instructions on the packet.
 

Not the most beautiful cake in the world. A dusting of icing sugar works wonders !
*Allspice is a gorgeous warm aromatic dried berry – also called Jamaican Pepper – I grind the berries as I need them as they have a longer shelf life than ready ground – and there is the bonus of the lovely aroma they release when crushed.
Mixed spice is ... um... a mixture of spices.
**If you don’t have buttermilk, simply use the same amount of fresh milk to which you have added a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
***For the stewed apple, simply peel, core and slice a large Bramley apple or similar (prepared weight approximately 200g. Place the flesh of the apple in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water, apple juice or cider. Place over a medium heat. Cover and allow the apple to steam in its own juices – stirring occasionally - for about 15 minutes or until completely soft and the slices of apple can be easily mashed with a fork. Mash to a reasonably smooth puree and leave to cool before using as above.
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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Mixed... Spice Up Your Life

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I've been filling the kitchen with the rich warm smell of Mixed Spice a lot lately. It is the baking equivalent of a big fat hug. Mixed Spice is a blend of warm sweet spices which has been used in British and Irish cookery since the early to mid-19th Century. It was widely used by the time The Lancet of January 3, 1852, did a study, calling out more than half the sample group of grocers tested, for adulterating the blend with "farinaceous matter" including sago, wheat and potato flour, among other things. It noted at the time that the adulteration of Mixed Spice was linked to its high value. It features in a lot of Christmas baking, and has become an essential ingredient in Hot Cross Buns (which have been around a few centuries longer).


According to The Lancet, it should - at the very least - contain allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. It can, in addition - contain caraway seed, cayenne pepper, coriander seed, mace and nutmeg.

Here is the combination I use:

1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until you have a fine lump-free powder. Place in a small glass spice jar, and store with the rest of your spices, in a cool dry dark place. 

Essential in Hot Cross Buns (click on link for recipe) and Clootie Dumpling.


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