Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Christmas Goose and all the trimmings!

Christmas dinner (our first on our own for 30 years) was an opportunity to experiment a little, after all, if it doesn't turn out quite right, it was only us, so it didn't matter too much.

Roast Goose - The goose was washed in vinegar and then stuffed with fresh rosemary and then left in the bottom of the fridge to rest until Christmas eve when I prepared the stuffing.  Alas I could find no chestnuts in the shops or on the market (even though they had plenty the week before) so I substituted with walnuts.  Bad idea.  The taste was fine but the stuffing turned an alarming purplish colour which was a little off putting.  So.... I would advise not using them in future.

The stuffing:  Sausagemeat - in my case this was sausages squeezed from their skins.  Chopped onion, celery, a little garlic, chopped apple, chopped goose liver, sprinkling of salt, pepper and mixed spice and then all mixed up by hand and the goose cavity filled.

A little salt sprinkled on the goose and covered with foil then roasted for nearly four hours... first at 180C and then after a couple of hours reduced to 160C.  We spent so much time on skype with our family while the goose was cooking that I neglected to baste the goose frequently... which I should have done, though very flavourful the breast was a little dry.  And as I said apart from the strange colour the stuffing was lovely.

The gravy was made the day before by roasting the goosewings with an onion, a carrot and half a celery stick, some salt and pepper and a couple of star anise.  After bashing the bones and then roasting until all the juices run out I moved it onto the top of the stove and added a spoonful of flour and cooked until everything was very thick.  Next I poured on some wine and then let it bubble and thicken up before adding about a litre of water.  It was then left on the stove to bubble gently until reduced by about a third.  The liquid was strained off and then seasoned and just before serving I added a good spoonful of grape jelly.  Any jelly would do.  The result was delicious.

Sussex Pond Pudding.
I have wanted to do this pudding for some years and now I thought was a good opportunity.  It is a boiled suet pudding, very old fashioned and takes three hours of boiling so when are you going to do it if not at Christmas?

The recipe came from a Jane Grigson cookery book I found second hand.  It is an excellent book and I have made many of the recipes from it without any issues.

The idea of the pond pudding is that you encase a whole lemon (speared all over to release its juice) along with butter and sugar in a suet pastry pudding and then boil.  When cooked you turn the pudding out into a deep basin and the lemon juice combined with sugar and butter leaks into the dish... creating a 'pond' coloured lemony sauce.

Sadly.  When turned out the sauce did not appear.  And it would seem that the suet pastry had soaked it all up!  Mmmmm.  the pastry tasted great, the lemon a little tart but with cream it was edible.  I am not entirely sure what went wrong.  Any suggestions very welcome!

The garden did not produce any brussels sprouts in time for the feast so we resorted to carrots, broccoli and cauliflower - which was absolutely fine.  We are not entrenched in any tradition that insists on specific food.  The main criteria for a feast day is a feast.  And that is what we had.

 The best discovery of the whole festive season was that Mascarpone mixed with a little icing sugar tasted like clotted cream and was brilliant with the mince pies.  Since cream is very hard to find here and the substitute Spanish stuff does not whip thick enough to use in Victoria sponge I have been looking for an alternative and though I suspect that I have forgotten exactly what clotted cream tastes like, the mascarpone would seem me to fit the bill.  At any rate it was delicious and shall be used again, and again, and again.  More festive food will no doubt appear come New Year, although we have been invited out so our Lamb shoulder will wait for another occasion.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Mulled wine and Spiced apple warmer!

I cannot lay claim to inventing the mulled wine recipe.  This one is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe and is made by infusing a syrup with the spices first before mixing with the red wine.  This means that you aren't boiling all the alcohol out of the wine before serving it.  So....

Ingredients:  200g sugar, 2 oranges, ( plus the juice of one of the oranges), 1 lemon, 6 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, a good grating of nutmeg, 2 bay leaves, 2 star anise, 1 vanilla pod split lengthways (use only half keeping the other half for the spiced apple warmer).  2 bottles cheap red wine (Jamie calls for Italian wine of course but I live in Spain so a box of Mercadona's cheapest was the order of the day!)

Method:  Put the sugar and spices (except for the star anise) in a pan.  Cut one orange and the lemon in half and put into the pan.  Juice the other orange and add the juice to the pan.  Add just enough red wine to cover the sugar and pop the pan on the heat.  Warm until the sugar melts into the wine and then whack the heat up and boil the mixture until it reduces by about half and becomes syrupy.

Add the rest of the wine to the syrup mixture as well as the star anise and then warm it through on a very low heat.  Try not to boil it again or you will burn off the alcohol but if you do, don't worry, it still tastes very good.

Spiced Apple Warmer - This is perfect for the non drinkers, for children or the designated driver.
Ingredients: A box of apple juice and exactly the same ingredients as for the mulled wine above (except for the sugar, you don't need the sugar).

Method:  Place all the ingredients in a pan and heat to boiling.  Turn off the heat and leave it to steep overnight or for at least a couple of hours.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Duck and Cabbage

Well that doesn't sound very exciting does it?  Actually it was delicious and different so I thought I would share.

Now I am not a fancy chef, I just enjoy cooking and I love food.  So.... who says the duck has to be red raw in the middle?  I suppose it might have tasted better if I had taken it off the heat a tad sooner but I am not a fan of underdone meat so my duck was perhaps a little overcooked for a real chef's taste but you can cook it for as long as you want.

For the duck breast.
Ingredients:  A large duck breast (this will serve two people in my house), a huge knob of butter.  How much is a knob?  Seriously guys... !  A little salt and pepper.

How To
Melt the butter and when it has stopped foaming pop in the duck breast skin side down.  Cook it quite fiercely on each side to start with and then turn down the heat and cook for about 8 - 10 mins (this should give you the classic red in the middle duck breast)  After cooking rest the breast under a little tin foil for about five minutes before slicing.  Nothing could be easier... oh yes... season with salt and pepper before pan frying.

Oh And I forgot!!!  Green pepper Sauce:
Ingredients:  1/4 pint red wine (I suspect you could do this with white wine, or even cider might be nice), splash of brandy, splash of port, two tablespoons of pickled green peppercorns, 1/2 pint cream, five tablespoons chicken stock (or water), teaspoonful of sugar.  Salt and Pepper.

How To:  Boil the red wine and brandy for five minutes - make sure it doesn't reduce away to nothing but it should shrink down by about a third.  Add the stock or water and boil again for five more minutes.  Add the peppercorns and the cream and once again boil for five minutes... it should reduce down by about half now.  Add the sugar and the port and stir until the sugar dissolves, taste and then season to suit.  Put in a jug and serve warm with the duck.

Cabbage - this is a spiced cabbage braised with apple and onion and needs to be prepared some hours before.
Ingredients:  Red cabbage (I used only half), Onion, one or two cloves of garlic depending upon size, two eating apples (the tarter the better), a couple spoonfuls of demerara sugar, a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg.  Three tablespoons wine or cider vinegar.  A couple of knobs of butter.

How To
Shred the cabbage and the onion and then peel and grate the apple.  Layer these three in a casserole dish sprinkling the garlic, sugar and spices between the layers.  Drizzle on the vinegar.  Top with the knobs of butter.

Cover the casserole and pop into a slow oven (130C max) and cook for 2 - 3 hours or even longer if the oven is really slow.  I used the wood fire oven and the temperature gauge no longer seems to work but it still turned out.  Give it a stir every half hour or so to mix up the flavours.  This will keep warm and reheat without spoiling and goes really well with the pan fried duck.  Enjoy!

 And no, we didn't have potatoes or anything else with this... it just seemed to be enough on its own... mashed spuds would probably be nice to soak up the sauce... or you could just do what we did... slice of bread to mop the plate mmmm yum.