Spring is coming!

Here in London, signs of spring, there are daffodils and snow drops along with hellebores in shades of pink, purple and creamy green. There are catkins, sticky buds and the beginnings of blossom as well as primula and of course MUD. Brighter mornings and later evenings all heralding spring . Yippee is all I can say.

Meanwhile, we have celebrated Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox, with spring rolls, stir fried noodles with vegetables, pancakes and Peking Duck.

I also made a Charlotte! Have not made in many a year, but there were apples and fresh rhubarb crying out to be used. For those of you who do not know what is a Charlotte, well I think it is best described as a fruity Bread and Butter pudding. Instead of bread I used brioche buns out of the freezer, sliced in to four slices . There are to my mind, not hard and fast rules. I used four buns, soft butter to spread on them and equal amounts of apples peeled and stewed in some brown sugar and rhubarb, also gently stewed. ( I used 500 gram of each)

Simply butter the bread slices and line a dish with them, add a layer of the fruit with some of the juice, more bread, more fruit and if she with a layer of bread. Melt about 4 Oz of unsalted butter and pour over the top of the pudding. Bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or so, until it is golden and risen like a soufflé. Remove and leave to cool a little before eating. I have to admit that I got distracted and forgot the Charlotte until it was well done, but nonetheless still delicious.

Another item that I have not made for years and years are Doughnuts!, The last lot I made were like bricks but I have found a new recipe and it worked exceedingly well. In fact I was worried that I would hear a bang in the middle of the night as I had placed my dough in a container in the refrigerator and thought it might just burst out of the box, but all was well this morning. All I had to do was to let the dough come to room temperature, and then shape it into balls. This is actually easier said than done as the mixture is very soft, so it was really a case of dividing the dough into 12 portions, ball shape as best as possible, place onto a greased tray ready for frying.

Deep fry the balls, depending on size of fryer ( I use a wok) only for a couple of minutes each side in hot oil, drain and dredge with sugar.

If doughnuts are your thing,and feel like giving them a whirl then here is the recipe.

  • 400 grms bread flour
  • 1 dessert spoon of caster sugar
  • 1oz fresh yeast
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • Pinch salt
  • 100 grms soft butter
  • 120 mls tepid water.

This is of course do-able by hand but if you have a mixer with a dough hook, great.

Mix the yeast with the sugar , it will make a very creamy paste. Add it to the water and the beaten eggs. Put the flour and salt into a mixer and with the engine running pour in the liquid. Let the machine mix and knead the dough. When smooth, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise to 2x its size. , mix the dough again either by hand or in the machine ( this is called knocking back) and put the dough into a container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, bring the dough up to room temperature ( I used the microwave on the lowest setting to do this, just a minute at a time) then , divide the dough into equal amounts, try and shape into balls and place on a greased tray and again , leave them to rise, they will double in size, so leave plenty of room between them.

Heat oil in your deep pan, and when hot enough slide the dough balls into the hot oil. They take only a couple of minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon ,place onto kitchen paper to drain and then toss in caster sugar and place a on a wire rack.

They can be eaten more or less straight away, but fillings can be added when cool.

Fillings such as whipped cream ( flavoured with cinnamon sugar, chopped stem ginger, melted cooled chocolate) jam, or cooled custard. The easiest way to insert the fillings is to slice the doughnut and add the filling.

A Takeaway Dinner, well almost.

Himself, once again asked the question ” When and what am I going to cook this week?” Well this week was going to be easy, a take away dinner, well almost but not quite.

I had ordered dinner from BANQUIST. This is a company that rolls out two chefs ( usually) per month, to showcase either their restaurants or their food, as not all of the chefs have restaurants, and in fact none of them are open at the moment anyway and so more and more are offering alternative dining experiences.

This weeks extravaganza came courtesy of Jitin Joshi, who has gone from pastry Chef for Gordon Ramsey, to Executive chef at the Burj Khalifa, to leading teams at Michelin starred Benares and Gymkhana.

The food arrives at a designated time, packed in recyclable ice packs and boxes, complete with all foods needed , written instructions and a video link.

Himself, found that he actually had a lot of work to do and some of it was a challenge, but I kept well out of the way, unless asked. He dutifully watched the video, and chopped and marinated as per instructions.

The only part he didn’t actually have to cook was the date pudding, but all the rest and Wow, boy did he do good ! There were a couple of things that didn’t work quite right, there seemed to be a lacking of timings, to let the novice chef know when to put the lamb in the oven for example. We also didn’t go a bundle on the polenta , personal taste and thought that the baby fennel didn’t do much to enhance the dish, though we do normally like fennel.

He also made the cookies to go with the dessert, along with a yummy toffee sauce. The cookies I also made during our first Lockdown, almost a year ago and will share the recipe once again. They are so yummy and more-ish and easy to make that kids and grandkids can make them.

  • 2oz ( 1/2 Cup) sugar preferably caster
  • 1 large or two medium egg whites
  • About 4 Oz chopped nuts
  • Can add some sesame seeds as well.

Heat the oven to 180 C fan, 200 normal. Put the nuts on a baking tray and put into the oven for them to toast, keep a careful eye, as you don’t want them to burn.

Remove and leave to cool.

Beat the egg whites until really stiff, stir in the sugar and chopped nuts ( and seeds if using). Put some greaseproof paper on a baking sheet and spoon onto it dollops of the cookie mixture, leaving about 2″ between each dollop.

Bake for about 16-18 minutes until golden brown, then remove from oven, and carefully using a spatula lift the cookies onto a cooling tray. I would say, store in a tin, but I’m sure they won’t stay around that long !

Just to show,mahatma some people use my v.of, here is Dave making Beigels! Way to go Dave!

Himself cooks Pheasant.

This week we had two minor outings, well me two and himself three.

One of our trips was to the wonderful Richmond Park, where you will find us at the crack of dawn for our daily walk. Any later, then the car park is full and the bikers ( cyclists) make crossing from the car park quite dangerous. The other outing also for a walk was to Kew Gardens, almost deserted, which gave us chance to wander through the kitchen gardens.

The outing that himself ventured on was an Urban Walk, where he happened upon a large police presence around a tunnel that had been dug by some people protesting the building of a railroad line. The chief protagonist, is someone by the nickname of Swampy a veteran protester and now there with his children. Interesting!

Himself said ” What am I going to cook this week?” For his once a week venture into the kitchen. Pheasant said I. Pheasant ? He repeated, And pray from where do we get a pheasant ? The freezer, said I.

And so it was that for our Sunday dinner we had Pheasant.

Once upon a time we had literally just a round the corner from us a restaurant called L’Autre Pied, this was the sister restaurant to Pied a Terre, on Charlotte Street, which in reality is a short walk away. Pied a Terre has a held a Michelin Star for the last twenty plus years and they are more than willing to share some of their recipes. This is how I happen to have their recipe for Pot Roasted Pheasant.

One has to take liberties with such recipes, after all it is not baking which requires much more adherence to quantities and timings and also now, if I don’t have some of the required ingredients I utilise what I have, and this is my Go To recipe for Pheasant.

For two people you will need:-

  • A pheasant ( they are often sold as a brace, ie in pairs)
  • 1/2 litre of cider, but we used Prosecco
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large or two small Cox apples, these have a nice flavour any apples will suffice except cooking apples
  • The white of 1 leek, we used baby leeks, cut into smallish chunks
  • 2 sticks celery cut into 2 cm bits
  • 2 shallots or one white onion cut into chunks
  • 150 grms lardons
  • 50 mls chicken stock ( a cube or powder will do)
  • 75 grms hard unsalted butter
  • 75 mls cream or crème fraiche

Preheat the oven to 160 C fan or 180 C non fan

  1. Season the bird with some salt and pepper
  2. Heat an ovenproof casserole and add half of the butter, fry the the lardons until golden and then add the pheasant. Seal on all sides until golden brown.
  3. Remove the bird and then add the vegetables, followed by the cider or wine and reduce until sticky.
  4. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Put the bird back into the pan, place in the hot oven and cook for about 30 mins.
  6. Remove the bird, cover with foil and leave to rest,
  7. Return the pan to the stove top, bring to the boil again and let the sauce reduce to about half,
  8. Add the remaking butter and cream.
  9. Carve the bird into two, plate and pour over the sauce.
  10. Garnish with parsley, or other herb.

Beigels, if at first you don’t succeed !

Apart from sorting, sorting and more sorting, I am very much Playing in my kitchen. Along with bread and bagels, I want to make Brioche and Crumpets. I have several more ice cream recipes up my sleeve, which means that Himself needs to eat more Ice Cream, just to make room in the freezer. But for now it is BEIGELS.

Currently, I am also on a bagel ( Americanised spelling) kick, finally got them sorted and so much more like the ones which can be bought at the bagel shops on Brick Lane, in the East End. Beigel Bake and Beigel Shop ( non Americanised spelling) ! Both are open 24 hours a day and each make over 2,000 beiges a day. On a Sunday the queues are around the block, and during the current Lockdown, they are still open and even do Delivery. We used to go and buy them but then came the industrialised versions such as The New York Bagel Company. These bagels served a purpose, but compared to the Brick Lane ( and now mine) versions, not worth eating!

I have to admit to using a bread machine to do the kneading and the rising, the former as I have tendinitis in my wrist and the latter as I really do not have anywhere warm to leave my dough to rise. Consequently, if I am not listening for the BEEP of my machine, it can look like something from the Day of the Triffids, almost oozing over the top of the machine !as with most breads things, time and Patience is what is needed. Do not get distracted as otherwise Biegels are not so difficult to make.

To make 8 Beigels you will need

  • 1oz/25 grams fresh yeast ( I much prefer fresh to dry, can be bought on line and it also freezes well)
  • 5 tsp caster sugar
  • 300 mls tepid water
  • 440 grms/ 3 1/2 cups bread ( strong ) flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Mix the water, sugar and yeast together it will make a smooth sweet smelling creamy liquid
  2. Mix the four and salt together and pour in the yeast mixture
  3. Mix well
  4. On a floured counter top, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
  5. Brush a large bowl with some oil, tip in the dough and turn it around to get a light covering of oil
  6. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place until the dough is double in size.
  7. Tip out and punch it down and then repeat steps 5 and 6.
  8. Tip out the dough again, punch it down and leave it covered with damp cloth for 10 more minutes.
  9. Divide the dough into 8 ( use scales if you want them to all be of equal size)
  10. Take a lump of the dough and roll it around on the countertop, with the palm of your hand to make a nice smooth ball, press it flat and then push your finger through the middle to make the hole, stretch it a bit. Place on a greased baking sheet and agin cover with a damp cloth and leave for another 10 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile heat the oven to 425 F/ 220 C ( 200 Fan Oven)
  12. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and drop in the beigels one by one.( I do two at a time.) they will float to the surface, leave for a minute and then flip over, total boiling time about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and put back on the greased tray. Glaze with beaten egg.
  13. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown, cool on a cooling tray, or eat at once oozing with butter.

Various toppings can be added after boiling, such as salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc.

Have fun, especially now whilst we have the time and by the way, slice and freeze, they do freeze extremely well!