Thursday, 26 March 2009

Soda bread obsession

In January, Mr AC and myself spent a really great weekend in Belfast. It's a lovely city and we had some great food. For lunch one day I had soup and soda bread and ever since I have become completely obsessed with making it (the bread not the soup) It's because it's so easy and the variations are many. This afternoon as the weather was foul I stayed in the warmth of the kitchen and made 4 loaves: Cheese & onion, malted wholemeal and fruit. You'll see by the recipe below that it really is simple. It's got a really nice 'cakey' texture and it's wonderful toasted. It does really need to be eaten fresh and if not it's best frozen quickly.

This is the fruity one with my homemade plum jam

Richard Corrigan's
Wholemeal soda bread
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
10g salt
15g bicarbonate of soda
250g wholemeal flour
150g jumbo oat flakes
2 tbsp clear honey
2 tbsp black treacle
500ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then mix in the honey, treacle and buttermilk, working everything together lightly with your hands, until you have a loose, wet dough. With floured hands, shape the dough into a round and lift on to the lined baking sheet. With a knife mark a cross in the top. Put into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack, drape with a damp teatowel and leave until cool. Slather with butter and scoff until you burst.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Malay Chicken Curry

This is one of the best chicken curry recipes I have ever tried. It's rich and creamy without being too cloying. The flavours are quite deep - star anise, cardamom and cassia are the predominant flavours with the lemon grass and curry leaves giving a wonderful fragrance (how pretentious was that?) - and by the way, the curry leaves really do make a huge difference. We like to eat this with some rice and a mango salsa - it goes really well with the salsa - the freshness and sweetness of the mango, the heat of the fresh chill and the fragrant coriander are a perfect match. Well, I'm in danger of turning into Brian Sewell and disappearing up my own doo dah so I will now wind my neck in.

Malay Chicken Curry
Ground Spices:
Coriander: 2 Rounded Tbls*
Cumin: 1½ Rounded Tbls
Turmeric: 1 level Tbls
Chilli Powder (depending on Strength) 1 Tsp
Whole spices
6 Curry leaves
1 Star anise
6 Cardamom pods
A lump of Cassia bark
6 Large chicken thighs
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
Small lump of fresh ginger
Medium red chilli (seeds in or out – your choice)
Rounded tsp of lemon grass from a jar
1 Can of coconut milk
Salt, oil & butter
* A 15ml tablespoon

Combine all the ground spices in a bowl and add 6 tblsp of water and make a paste.
Put half the onion in a mini whizzer with half the ginger, 1 clove of garlic and red chilli – blitz. Add to spice paste. Finely slice remaining onion, garlic and ginger.
Put a couple of glugs of oil and a knob of butter in your pan and fry the whole spices for a couple of mins. Then add the onion, garlic and ginger and soften gently for about 10 mins. Add the spice paste and lemon grass and cook for 5 mins. Plop in your thighs and get them nicely coated and slightly seared. Add the coconut milk and simmer uncovered for approx 50 mins, periodically stirring and turning the thighs. Let the coconut milk thicken but don't let it bubble too fiercely. Check for chilli heat.
I always take the meat off the bone before serving as it's easier to eat.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A shed load of fish

As it was such a lovely spring day on Saturday, Mr Ample Cook decided that I would be unleashed from my apron and be allowed to venture out for a spot of lunch. Actually, we ended up having a huge great orb of lunch.

We went to Mersea Island - which is located around eight miles from Colchester in Essex - to a place called The Company Shed. It's run by the Haward family who have been growing and harvesting native oysters since 1792. The 'Shed' is a fishmongers come restaurant. When I say restaurant it's really a shed with tables. You can't book ahead and you take your own bread and drink. It's been reviewed in virtually all the Sunday newspaper magazines (Jay Rayner, Jan Moir etc have reviewed it) so it's become a bit of a 'destination place' to eat. In fact if you don't get there around 11.15 you're at the mercy of the blackboard waiting list and you just have to hang around outside waiting for your name to be called. It does attract the hoorays I'm afraid. They stand outside guffawing and saying "what a charming little place" whilst uncorking their Sancerre.
It's a very haphazard affair inside. You go and collect your crockery and mismatched glasses yourself and just order your food at the counter. You don't even pay up front. First up we plumped for some scallops with bacon which were so yummy I nearly forgot to take a photo - hence only one left on the plate.

Next we ordered the seafood platter for two. It was shall we say a very generous portion. As you can see there was shell on prawns, peeled prawns, crevettes, a whole crab, peppered and plain smoked mackerel, smoked salmon, cockles and green lipped mussels - phew and only £8.50 per head. The photo doesn't do it justice - the platter was around 14 inches in diameter. I can honestly say it was as fresh as a daisy. It makes you realise how lousy supermarket smoked salmon and prawns are. No wonder there was a constant - and I mean constant queue for the fish counter.
This is a photo of the salmon and prawns which the lady sitting next to me had ordered - she very kindly let me photograph it!

We had also ordered a half a dozen oysters too, but we were quite glad that they didn't turn up because quite frankly we were stuffed.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Pork Fest

In my humble opinion pork shoulder is a very under used cut of pork. Pork belly is of course the 'new black' and has become the darling of the foodies. Pork shoulder however has been standing in the shadow of the belly and needs to be brought blinking into the light of the kitchen. It is a perfect cut for braising as it's marbled with fat and when cooked is soft and really tasty. It's like chicken in its versatility because you can cook it with so many things - and it's cheap! Here I have browned the cubed pork with chorizo and onions, and then simmered it with some passata, (I've still got some homemade passata in the freezer, which I have to say is best as it's less 'tomatoey' and a bit fresher tasting) I then added some peppers and courgettes in the last half hour - they get too soggy if added earlier. Although there's paprika rich chorizo I also added some pimenton. It's great with rice or pasta or if laziness overcomes you - crusty bread.

This is another dish using shoulder, this time the pork is braised in cider and a bit of chicken stock with some onion and celery - and a touch of sage. Then as a bit of a naughty garnish I added some apple slices fried in butter. This is really good served with mustard mash - a big 'kerplop' of Dijon and wholegrain added to very buttery mashed spuds.

Ghengis Tomato

I just found this little bad boy at the bottom of a bowl of tomatoes and it made me laugh out loud!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Continuing the chocolate theme.........

There's something very decadent about a dessert that you can stack 'Ferrero Rocher' style, which consists of crisp pastry, filled with softly whipped cream and then smothered in warm chocolate sauce. Pure food porn.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Take a pound of butter and a pound of chocolate.....

Could there be a better start for a recipe?

This is chocolate tiffin, a wicked combination of chocolate, butter, biscuits and toasted nuts. It's quite addictive. I advise my customers, after eating a lump, not to drive or operate heavy machinery.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Turkey, Pork & Bacon Pie

This pie is based on a pie that my Mother-in-law Margaret used to make. She made it on Christmas eve, ready to be eaten on Christmas morning, with a glass of champagne whilst opening your presents. But frankly it's too yummy to only have it at Christmas. It's also good made with rabbit and pheasant, which I use when they're in season, which are shot on the farm.

It's a shortcrust pastry pie, filled with poached free range turkey thigh, pork belly and smoked bacon. The free range turkey thigh is such a lovely dark, moist meat. God knows why people have a turkey crown for Christmas - it's such a waste. To my mind they're missing the best bit as it has far more flavour. They're probably the same type of people who throw away their chicken carcasses and miss out on lovely stocks and soups because they can't be bothered - crazy.

Right, rant over, now where were we? The pie is then baked and when cool a rich jellied stock is poured in. It's like a raised pie, but lighter as it doesn't have the rich hot water crust pastry.