Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pig in a Day...

A minor disclaimer before I start:  This post might not be best for the squeamish!

Last weekend (between auntie visiting hours) I was down in Devon on a River Cottage “Pig in a Day” course! 
I was slightly anxious when I first arrived because:
a) I didn't really know what a “Pig in a Day” course might entail,
b) I’d only managed to listen to the first half of the world cup final and,
c) I appeared to have entered an alternate reality populated entirely by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall look-a-likes... 

Floppy unruly hair... tick; bold checked shirt... tick; body warmers and "gardening" jeans... tick; plummy accent... tick, tick, tick!

Attack of the Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls aside, what a stormer of a day!!  We started with home cured bacon and tomato relish sandwiches in the backyard yurt...
then went on to learn how to butcher a carcass and utilise every single last piece. 
 ...and when I say every single I mean EVERY SINGLE!!  There were recipes and demonstrations for brawn (using the head and trotters), devilled kidneys, liver pate, even brain “mcnuggets”. 
We were shown how to stuff, smoke, cure, air dry, make sausages and chorizo... all interspersed with endless tastings, snacks and an enormous Sunday roast (pork naturally!).

The guys running the course were incredibly knowledgeable, relaxed and fun... I had an amazing day and would like to pass on a massive thank you to "the girls" for an awesome birthday present and Mr and Mrs T for hosting us all!!

The (very garlicy) chorizo is currently stinking out our fridge in London waiting the obligatory drying time before I can use it... I CAN’T WAIT!!

The chorizo is made using the same method as sausages. 

Rinse and soak the casings overnight in cold water.  Mince the pork and mix all the ingredients thoroughly.  Stuff the casings (for more detailed instructions see this link), twist to form individual sausages and hang in the fridge for at least one week before cooking.

Watch this space for the recipe using them, perhaps the perfect excuse for a jambalaya? Who knows...!

Cooking Chorizo: (makes 50 sausages)
8 metres hog casing
5kg pork (roughly 20% fat)
100g salt
125g smoked paprika
70g sweet paprika
15g cayenne pepper
50g fennel seeds, lightly toasted
10 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 glasses red wine

Monday, 24 October 2011

Surprise! He’s early...

The countdown is over... Welcome to the world Fraser Duncan! 
My brand spanking new nephew was born Friday morning – and I’m already utterly besotted with him: he’s without doubt the smallest yet most entertaining person I’ve ever met! 
I think he looks like my sister-in-law, she thinks he looks like my brother, and my brother thinks he looks like me... only one thing’s for certain – he's definately got my dad’s hairline!
Looking forward to the upcoming innumerable doting auntie moments...

Thursday, 20 October 2011

More Christmas booze - this time berry whiskey...

I’m not a giant whiskey fan.  It’s one of those drinks which can give me a hangover by catching a glimpse of it... from a distance... out of the corner of my eye!  Not a great characteristic for a girl with so much Scottish heritage. 

The only way I’ve ever really enjoyed it was in a recipe I used when I was working as a chalet girl.  The whiskey was added to a caramel sauce and poured over orange spiked bread and butter pudding.  

So (naturally) I’ve taken to assuming that if I add enough sugar and fruity flavours I can make it Lindsay-proof.  I’m hoping against hope I’ve found my whiskey loophole as I’ve already made a litre of sweet mixed berry whiskey for Christmas.

I know, I know!  Not necessarily a particularly logical choice for someone who is a self-proclaimed whiskey-cynic.  But how could I resist?  It's like sloe gin’s distant Scottish cousin... It sounds so deliciously warming.  Just the thing to curl up with when you’re contemplating the Christmas fallout.  Or maybe even something to toast the New Year in with...

The recipe is definitely a marathon not a sprint – although it takes absolute minimum effort it’s spread over months!

I’ll keep you posted on the results – I have everything crossed for loving it... but if it’s still too “whiskey-like” for me don’t be surprised to find some lurking in your stockings!

Fill a kilner jar (or two!) with the fruit.  Pour the sugar over the top.  Top up with whiskey and shake.

Place the kilner jars in a dark cool place (I’ve used my cellar steps). 

For the first two weeks shake the jars daily. 

Then every other week for the next six weeks. 

Strain the mixture so that any solids are removed and bottle.  Then all that’s left is (hopefully) enjoying it!

Mixed Berry Whiskey:
700ml whiskey
1kg mixed red fruit (I used cherries, red grapes, blackberries and blackcurrents)
225g sugar

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

all change on the good ship Duncan...

This week has been a week of change.  Goodbye to: having a boyfriend, working in Shoreditch, cycling to work on a death trap and being the youngest in the family...  Hello to: being single again, working in Clarkenwell, cycling to work on a bike with actual working brakes, and my sister-in-law’s due date (one week today!)! 

In the midst of all this change I had the family over for a very relaxed afternoon tea on Sunday... one of the stars of the show (in comparison say, to the overly “caramelised” fruit scones) was the lemon curd.  A delicious way of disguising the slightly overcooked scones if ever I found one!  It was so good it was also sandwiched with some sweetened mascarpone between lavender shortbreads, slathered on toast and dolloped on sticky gingerbread... a bit of an all-rounder hero really!
Place the lemon juice, zest, sugar and butter in a bowl over simmering water.  Stir this until the butter has melted.
Beat together the eggs and the extra yolk and stir into the bain marie.  Cook stirring regularly for 10 minutes until thick.
Remove from the heat and stir until it is cool.  Pour into sterilised jars and seal.
It will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

4 unwaxed lemons, zest and juice
200g sugar
100g butter, cut to cubes
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Goodbye to the short-lived baking embargo!! Hello yummy Courgette and Mozzarella Muffins...

Last week’s baking embargo was blown well and truly out of the water over the weekend!  There were almond croissants, pan aux raisin, and muffins secreted in with the usual autumnal jams, jellies, and pickles.  I’ve therefore decided that instead of attempting to eat less or healthier (it was in hindsight a remarkably implausible challenge for someone like me!) I will just have to exercise more...

Now I know:  I’m not exactly a gym person - but, I’ve managed to find another fun alternative to keep me fit between surfing and snowboarding – indoor climbing!  I’ve signed up for a course and am loving it!  Fingers crossed it will be enough to keep me and the added blog calories from falling out – if not pity the poor fool who has to belay my climbs!

I would like to think that because these Courgette and Mozzarella Muffins from Dan Lepard aren’t laden with butter and sugar and contain actual live healthy vegetables we can pretend that they are in fact good for me.  We’ll quickly gloss straight over the oil and cheese content... who cares?  They taste gooooood!  What's a little oil and cheese amongst friends?

The muffins were perfect (still warm from the oven so the mozzarella was all gooey) for a quick weekend snack.  Definitely one to make again... (and again... and again!)

Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C.  Place muffin papers in 18 holes of a 24-hole muffin tin. 

Mix all of the ingredients except the flour and baking powder in a large bowl until evenly blended. 
Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold through gently.  Spoon into the prepared cases (almost to the very top – they don’t rise that much!). 
Bake until puffed and golden (approximately 25 minutes).

2 large eggs, beaten well
100ml milk, cold
25ml olive oil
2tsp caster sugar
1tsp salt
1tbsp chilli flakes
1 small bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1 small bunch of chives, chopped
8 slices ham, finely chopped
275g mozzarella (drained weight), cubed
1 large courgette, grated
275g self-raising flour
3tsp baking powder

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Food Blogging Makes you Fat: Chocolate-Dipped Florentines

It’s a fact – I’ve never consumed so much cake in my life!  I’m having it for breakfast, 11ses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, dessert, midnight snacks… FATTTYYYYYYYY!  I've started using this blog as an excuse to bake morning, noon and night... I've always been a big eater but even I'm getting slightly conserned!  This much sugar and butter every day could quite possibly turn me into the world's first human bouncy castle...

In an attempt to not end up the size of a bus by my 31st birthday I’ve come to the simple conclusion that I’m going to try and restrict myself (good luck with that one!) .  Half of my posts (she optimistically writes) are going to hopefully start to be at least distant cousins to healthier food… Or perhaps I’ll have to put myself on an “only baking when it’s for someone else” ban… Or maybe just resign myself to biting the bullet and going on that moo moo shopping spree...

So, I've decided to make freezable Christmas presents for the next few weeks in an attempt to give my body a bit of a break.  First up: Chocolate-Dipped Florentines.  Luckily this post isn’t going to ruin anyone’s Christmas morning surprise: Mum requested these pretty much as soon as she’d polished off last year’s batch.  This time the recipe is one of David Lebovitz’s – the first of his I’ve tried and it’s a winner.

These biscuits (yes I know – not exactly healthy but they ARE for someone else) are delicious – I managed to only “test” one… well two… ok THREE but  in my defense you have to make sure when you’re gifting the end product!  (Mum see what sacrifices I make for you!?)

Preheat the oven to 150
˚C.  Grease and line your baking trays.

In a bowl mix together all of the ingredients (apart from the chocolate).  Fill a small bowl with cold water. 

Dip your hands in the water then pick up a tablespoon sized portion and heap it on the prepared baking tray.  Repeat with the rest of the mixture. 
Once you’ve used it all up, dip the fork in the water between flattening each biscuit as much as possible while avoiding gaps in the mixture and trying to keep an even shape. 
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  Cool slightly on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. 
Melt the chocolate and brush the base of each biscuit in a thin layer.  Leave in the fridge until set and then store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Or as I’ve done, freeze as a very early start on Christmas baking!

1 large egg white, at room temperature
50g icing sugar
130g blanched sliced almonds
a good pinch of flaky sea salt
grated zest of half an orange, preferably unsprayed
100g dark chocolate, melted

Monday, 3 October 2011

Indian Summer, too much Sangria and Squidgy Lemon Cake...

God bless Indian summers!  I spent pretty much the entire weekend on a friend’s balcony basking in the sun.  We were lined up like sardines, sun loungers and hammocks filling every available space. 
 An epic barbeque and endless jugs of sangria and pimms mixed with good friends and lots of sun – it was like a mini-holiday!  Sigh – Monday morning blues are here to stay...

In an attempt to inject some much needed sugar into the morning after the night before I made this squidgy lemon cake yesterday – perfection!  It was dense, intensely lemony, with a brilliant yellowy colour, but sadly it was as ugly as sin!  I have to admit the ugly part was completely my fault.  I should know by now not to attempt baking on a hangover... 

My poor creation was unceremoniously dumped out of it’s tin in several pieces and then aggressively stuck back together with lumpy lemony icing... never-the-less, presentation and effort aside it was still delicious and hoovered up in minutes. 

This recipe was remarkably similar to another cake I baked recently... a cake which is terrifyingly easy to make and would have been the perfect choice when feeling decidedly "delicate"!  A Lemon Polenta Cake which I found on the back of an Imbhams Farm Granary Polenta Flour bag. 

Luckily, having two favourite lemon cake recipes now will mean a series of taste tests... Looks like I’ll be needing to join a gym this autumn!

Preheat the oven to 160˚C and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.

Blend all the ingredients (except the blueberries) in a food processor until smooth.  Stir through the berries and spoon into the prepared tin.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, then leave the cake in the tin until cool.

Lemon Polenta Cake: (makes 1 loaf)
115g polenta flour
175g unsalted butter, softened
225g brown sugar
200g ground almonds
3 large eggs
3 lemons, zested
1 ½ lemons, juice
1tsp baking powder
Blueberries to taste