TOMATOES

It really has been the most glorious summer and one thing will stick in my mind as the colder mornings are with us; the glut of fruit in the garden and greenhouse. Our fruit trees and bushes have groaned under the weight of their harvest. I started off making strawberry jam, froze raspberries, gooseberries and red and black currants. By the end of August I just could not keep up with picking plums. The sleepy, sophorific wasps were very busy with the plums so it was a challenge to get there in time. I made the most delicious plum and almond tart which will be the subject of a future post.

Back in the greenhouse, today is all about tomatoes. I don’t grow my own plants as I prefer to experiment with different varieties. In late March I stop anywhere on the road where there is a sign for tomato plants. In this way you have a lovely mix of beefsteak, yellow, cherry varieties and many of the old heirloom types that are making a come back. It all makes for a much more interesting tomato salad.

I love a home made tomato sauce which you can bring out of the freezer in the depths of winter. It forms the basis of a great and easy supper with pasta (preferably fresh) and some grated Parmesan. As you slowly re-heat the sauce, the kitchen will be full of that wonderful tomato, basil and garlic smell. Four minutes after cooking your fresh pasta, supper is ready. If you don’t have a ready supply of tomatoes to cook up now, buy them in bulk from the supermarket.

TOMATO SAUCE
Ingredients –
4lbs fresh tomatoes
Olive Oil
Basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, crushed

Method –
Wash the tomatoes and then cut in half and place cut side up in a large roasting tin. If they are cherry tomatoes, I don’t even cut them in half. You will probably need more than one roasting tin. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and then scatter with the crushed garlic and torn basil leaves. Season with salt and black pepper.

roast tomatoes

Roast at 180 degrees (Aga – roasting oven) for 30 mins. The outside edges of the tomatoes should be crunchy. Remove from the oven and let them cool. Liquidize in a Magimix or with a hand blender and pour into tupperware boxes or freezer bags. Freeze when completely cold or store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

You could also add chopped chillies to give some of the sauce an extra ommph. This sauce also makes a great base for a vegetarian lasagne with courgettes and aubergine.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – BRIOCHE AND CUSTARD TART

 

PIGEON

   

Pigeon & Beetroot Terrine

As of 1st February, the pheasant and partridge season is over but there is still  pigeon to be had out there in the countryside. Around us, the locals will gather in the woods during the late afternoon on a Saturday waiting for dusk and the pigeons coming to roost. These wily birds are really wild and very difficult to shoot as they jink high in the sky. The guns must remain well hidden in the near dark so they are not seen.

Therefore, any wild pigeon should be treated with the respect it deserves in the kitchen. If you are given any pigeon, pluck the breast feathers off straight away and then cut the breasts off. This is not a game bird to roast. Two tips – do NOT cook the pigeon breasts for too long.  Flash fry them for 30 seconds on each side then roast for 3 minutes.  Overcooked pigeon breast is tough and horrible to eat. Secondly, I always marinade the pigeon breast for 24 hours in a combination of red wine, a little goundnut oil and seasoning such as garlic and herbs. The process of marinading the meat helps to tenderise it and also improves the flavour of the pigeon that has been cooked quickly. If you are looking for a supply of pigeon, ask your local butcher or, in the countryside, a farmer.

For a recipe, I go back to an old cookery book Cooking for Friends by Raymond Blanc (1994).  He looks very young on the front cover! You can still get a Used copy on Amazon for £4.30. Pigeon & Beetroot terrine is a recipe that is brilliant for a winter dinner party.  It’s not difficult as long as you plan ahead and as always, use the correct sized equipment. In this case, a loaf tin.  I buy all this type of kitchen stuff in Biggers of Bailgate in Lincoln – contact details below.  You will need a weight to press the terrine down and I use a bag of lentils/beans etc.  Use something that is heavy and will also spread out to fill the space.

Finally a serving tip. After the terrine has been turned out, use a very sharp carving knife to cut a clean, tidy slice. I then use a cake slice to carefully place it on the plate.  I am making it sound a huge faff. It’s not, but I have done this many times and this is the best method. Please try it, your family and friends will be impressed and it’s delicious.

PIGEON & BEETROOT TERRINE – serves 6-8
Equipment – 1 loaf (terrine) tin 9 inches long, 4 inches wide and 4 inches deep
Ingredients
8 breasts of wild pigeon
1 tbsp groundnut oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine
2 juniper berries, crushed
freshly ground black pepper
1 bayleaf

For the terrine
1 kg beetroots
1 tbsp caster sugar\
12 black peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
5 gelatine leaves – soak them in a bowl of cold water to soften

For the garnish
2 handfuls of various salad leaves
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method –
Mix the marinade ingredients together. Place the pigeon breasts in a small flat dish and pour over the marinade. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. It’s good if you can remember to turn them a few times.

Wash the beetroots and place in a casserole dish. Cover with cold water and add a tsp of salt, the sugar, peppercorns and vinegar. Simmer for 50 minutes.  I do this in the Aga (baking oven), otherwise a moderate oven – 150C if fine. Check they are cooked with a knife blade – they may need more time if they are large. Leave them to cool in the liquid.
This will be retained to make the jelly.  Peel the beetroot and chop into 1/2 inch dice. Taste to check the seasoning.  Set aside.

Place 300 ml of the beetroot water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the softened gelatine, take off the heat and stir. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 230C. Place the terrine tin in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Remove the pigeon breasts from the marinade and pat dry. Take a frying pan and heat the oil until hot. Sear the breasts for 30 seconds on each side. Season with salt and pepper and then place in a roasting tin in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the tin and allow to cool. Season again with more salt and pepper.

You will now build the terrine.  Remove the terrine tin from the freezer and pour an 1/8inch
layer of jelly on the bottom.  This will set immediately. Neatly place a layer of diced beetroot in the terrine, then along the middle, a line of pigeon breast. Cover with another layer of the diced beetroot. Top with the beetroot jelly and cover the terrine with cling film.  Place the weight on top of the cling film and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Just before serving, remove the weight and cling film from the terrine.  Dip the terrine tin in hot water. Heat a sharp knife under hot water and carefully run the blade along the inside.
Carefully invert onto a flat plate.  Cut the terrine into slices and using the cake slice, place
onto the plates. Garnish with the salad leaves.  Shake the salad dressing ingredients in a jam jar, season and drizzle onto the leaves.  Your guests will love this delicious and smart
starter.

Contact details – In Lincoln, Biggers of Bailgate – 01522 525 536

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – SMOKED HADDOCK CHOWDER

 

FISH PIE

By now, turkey, mince pies and Christmas pudding are all in the past!  It’s time to eat something a little healthier and lighter. But, because it’s so cold out there, I want to carry on eating comfort food and fish pie ticks all the boxes. Use your favourite fish – cod every time for me and a combination of those delicious, big prawns, free range hard boiled eggs and to give it a lift, capers. Cover with a creamy white sauce made with the fish stock, flavoured with lemon juice and parsley. Top the whole lot with smooth mashed potato. All you need is a bag of frozen petit pois and maybe carrots.

Two top tips –
Do not cook the precious, expensive, lovely fish for too long. Most cookery books will tell you to poach the fish fillets for 20 minutes. This is far too long! Twelve minutes is fine. Don’t forget you will be re-heating the whole fish pie after the mashed potato is added. You are aiming for large, just cooked flakes of fish not mush.

Secondly, any recipe that uses mashed potato calls for a potato ricer. This is a wonderful kitchen utensil that will guarantee that your mashed potato will be completely lump free. You can buy this kind of kitchen utensil at Bigger of Bailgate, Lincoln. Contact details below or in good kitchen shops like John Lewis.
Use a knob of butter to make your mashed potato creamy. Avoid adding milk which turns your lovely mash into slop.

Your family and friends will love this fish pie and there won’t be any leftovers. For the basis of the recipe, I return to Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course. I bought this book in 1984 and like alot of us, it’s a bit frayed at the edges now but still full of great ideas ! Currently, you can buy a Used copy from Amazon for £2.41. Has to be good value.

Fish Pie – serves 6
Ingredients –
800 g white fish – haddock or cod.
1 pint of milk
4 oz butter
2 oz plain flour
75 g large peeled prawns
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 tblsp capers, drained
3 tblsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
tblsp lemon juice
salt and black pepper
1 kg potatoes – for instance Maris Piper
2 oz of butter
a little grated nutmeg

Method –
Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. AGA owners will use the roasting oven.
Place the white fish into an oven proof dish and cover with half the milk. Top with 25 g of butter in flecks and season with salt and pepper. Poach for 12 minutes. Reserve the cooking liquid and carefully remove the skin and any bones from the fish. Flake the fish into large pieces and place in a buttered, baking dish. It needs to be deep enough to take the addition of the mashed potato.
To make the sauce, place 75 g of butter into a medium saucepan and melt. Stir in the flour and then gradually whisk in the cooking liquid and the remaining milk. Season, add the parsley and then let the sauce gently cook for 10 minutes. 
Add the prawns, chopped eggs and capers evenly to the fish in the baking dish.
Check the seasoning of the sauce and then add the lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the fish mixture and make sure all the ingredients are well covered.

Boil the peeled potatoes until tender and drain. When cool enough to handle, put the freshly cooked potatoes through the potato ricer into a large bowl.  Add the remaining butter, some nutmeg and salt and pepper. Spoon the mashed potato over the fish and carefully spread it out with a fork.

The fish pie can now be re-heated in the oven at the same temperature (200 C) for 30 minutes or until piping hot. Serve with green vegetables and/or carrots. Tomato ketchup – up to you!

Contact details – In Lincoln, Bigger of Bailgate for a great range of kitchen utensils.

Website: www.biggerofbailgate.com/

Address: 48 Bailgate, Lincoln LN1 3AP.

Tel – +44 (0)1522 525 536

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – Seville Orange Marmalade

 

TURKEY & LEEK PIE

It is highly possible that like me, you are standing in your kitchen looking at your half eaten turkey. Sandwiches are still a good option but I always like to make a turkey and leek pie at this time. It’s the combination of the white and brown meat, tender leeks and a delicious creamy sauce married to a golden, puff pastry crust topping. The addition of smoked, streaky bacon is good or add left over stuffing. A green salad is all you need to go with it but if you want to make it go further, do jacket potatoes and petit pois!

First of all, you need to make the turkey stock that forms the basis of the cream sauce. The quality of the stock really affects the end result so take a little time to get this right. It will be worth it.

Remove all the meat from the turkey carcase and store it, covered in the fridge. Place the carcase in your largest casserole (you may have to break it up). Add a chopped carrot, onion and celery if you have it. Season with salt, a few black pepper corns and a couple of bay leaves. Add just enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil and then transfer to a low temperature oven (120 / 130 C) for two hours. Discard the carcase and vegetables and strain the liquid through a sieve. You should then have at least a litre of fragrant stock.

Ingredients – serves 6 to 8. 
800 g cooked turkey meat, cut into big chunks
4 leeks – washed and trimmed. Chop the white ends into chunks and finely slice the green ends.
2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon – chopped
A handful of fresh thyme and sage
Olive oil
Large knob of butter
2 heaped tbsp plain flour
200 ml single or double cream

1 x 500 g packet puff pastry
1 free range egg, beaten

Method –
Preheat the oven to 190 C. – Aga users will use the baking oven.

Then put the bacon and herbs in a large casserole and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and the butter. Fry off for a few minutes. Add the leeks and fry them off for 3 minutes. Season, put a lid on and let them cook on a very low heat for 15 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes so the leeks don’t catch.
Add the turkey meat plus any left over stuffing. Add the flour, mix in well then stir in the stock. Heat gently for 10 minutes. Once combined, the sauce will thicken. Add the cream and check the seasoning. Bring the mixture to the boil then spoon into an oven proof dish – 22 x 30 cm.
Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the puff pastry to fit the dish. Tuck the ends in and score the surface with a knife. Add a pinch of salt to the beaten egg and brush over the top of the pastry.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is hot.
This really is a most delicious and easy way to use Christmas left overs. 

Have a relaxing holiday weekend.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – FISH PIE

PARTRIDGE

At this time of the year there will be an evening when you want to push the boat out.  It’s not quite the Christmas season but you feel wintery and festive.

I get a few friends round and put a bit of extra time in.  I feel that I want to do something a bit special.  The dinner (or lunch) calls for Partridge.

If you live in the country, you will come across coveys of partridge (a family group), particularly at harvest time in the stubble fields.  They are highly likely to be red legged, French partridges. I am told by a local Lincolnshire expert that the English ones fly too fast and people can’t shoot them!  The French ones are also easier to rear.  So, this is a bird that has not even led the life as a grass/corn fed chicken in a field or barn.  It’s completely wild and therefore has a wonderful gamey (but not too gamey) taste.  I much prefer it to it’s wild neighbour, the pheasant.  Generally a partridge is easier to bring to a lovely, ‘just cooked enough, done’ state whereas a pheasant , roasted, can easily be tough.

Buying them should not be that difficult.  You cannot find them in supermarkets here but a good butcher will have them or I hope you can find a game dealer.  I buy dressed (plucked and cleaned) partridges by the box from Jonathan Fenwick at Beelsby.  Each partridge comes very conveniently, individually wrapped.  You should allow one partridge per person.  Currently the price/partridge is between £4-6/brace.  There are two partridges in a brace. Contact details below.

For an idea for a recipe I go back to a book from 1995. Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers – THE RIVER CAFE COOK BOOK.  I spent the 90’s in a flat in Ladbroke Grove cooking from this book and still love it today.  There is a not a huge amount of meat on a partridge but I would be serving a Starter and a Pudding, maybe cheese.  All the partridge needs is the Chestnut stuffing, the pan juices and a nutty, creamy parsnip puree.  You will be transported to a Tuscan winter and your friends will have had a real treat.

Partridge with Proscuitto and a Chestnut Stuffing served with a Parsnip Puree
Serves – 6

Ingredients –
6 partridges, plucked and cleaned
80 g unsalted butter
6 slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon olive oil
150 ml Italian red wine – I recommend a light red like Dolcetta

For the stuffing –
250 g pack vacuum-packed peeled chestnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
175 g fresh belly pork (minced) or good quality sausage meat
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
100 g pancetta, chopped
150 ml Italian red wine as above
1 teaspoon crushed juniper berries
1/4 nutmeg, grated
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method –
Make the stuffing. Break chestnuts into small pieces. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, pork or sausage meat and thyme, and cook, stirring, until the meat is brown. Add the pancetta, the wine, juniper and nutmeg and cook together for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cool. This can be all done in advance and I prefer it that way.  All the flavours mesh together.

When you are ready to cook the partridges, preheat the oven to 230 C. (Aga roasting oven). Add the chestnut pieces to the cool stuffing and then stuff each bird. Cover the partridge breasts with a covering of butter and then a slice of proscuitto. Brush a suitably sized roasting tin with the oil and brown the birds for 10 mins. Baste with the buttery juices and then lower the heat to 180 C for a further 20 minutes. (Aga baking oven). Test by pulling a leg away – if still too pink, cook for a few more minutes.  Remove to a warmed meat platter and cover with foil.  They will sit happily in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Parsnip Puree –
Serves 6
Ingredients –
6 large parsnips, peeled
60 g unsalted butter plus a little extra to finish
400 ml full fat milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method –
Chop the parnsips into even 1cm dice. Melt the butter, add the parnsips and season well with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Occasionally, move them around with a spoon. Add enough milk to cover the parsnips and cook over a low heat until they have completely softened – about 15 minutes. Strain off the milk and keep it warm.  Blend the parnsips in a Magimix (or with a hand held blender), adding back enough milk to make a thick, smooth puree.  Check the seasoning.  When you are ready to serve, gently reheat the parnip puree with a knob of butter.

Deglaze the roasting pan juices with the red wine. Spoon the puree onto each hot plate and place the whole partridge on top. Spoon the red wine juices over the birds and serve immediately.

Contact details –
In Lincolnshire, contact Jonathan Fenwick for boxes of partridges – 07860 869 537 or 01472 371 245.

Next time – RICH, FRUIT CAKE