Archive | May, 2012

Foodie Penpals the Third

31 May

So this was my third month of being a Foodie Penpal. I send a box. I receive a box. Said box is full of delicious things. Everyone is a winner. If you want to win like that too, then go and have a shufty at RockSalt’s Sign Up Page.

This month I was paired with Jess to send to and Rhian to receive from. You will be able to read all about what I sent Jess here. (I won’t give any secrets away, oh no!)

Rhian sent me a fantastic package that was pretty generous. So spoiled am I! Her internet presences can be found here, but really you should follow her twitter @rhiandaniel – there’s a lot of good goings-on there.

So Ta-DA:

Here you can see my lovely card with macaroons on at the top left, then clockwise: a packet of Zoo pasta (actually amazing – I can’t wait to eat through the jungle), some handmade cinnamon and coconut macaroons (more later), TWO BARS OF WELSH CHOCOLATE (one dark, one caramel), a recipe book all about iced things (more later toooooo) and finally a packet of Rooibos tea (just because I’d said I like the loose leaf stuff, fancy pants that I am). What a haul. I can’t think of a better advert for foodie penpals than this.

The pasta, I’m waiting to eat because I really want to share it with my partner’s 6 year old son – we’ll going to make a well amazing cheesey sauce to go with it. Lions love cheese. Just like Shaggy loves haslet.

The chocoalte was very delicious. I took the caramel one away with me to my course at Dilston Physic Garden and nommed it to keep my brain cells going on a massively busy couple of days. The dark is delicious, but I’m saving it to make some delicious something with – maybe dark chocolate fudge? Really nice chocolate deserves to be shown off.

The Rooibos tea, I will confess, had my heart fall a bit. Not because it wasn’t a really thoughtful and kind thing to send, but because I forgot to say I don’t really like the stuff on the times I’ve tried it. However, I’m not going to let my pre-conceptions rule my life like that. In fact this rooibos is pretty nice and has very little of that metallic aftertaste I associate with the tea. I think it’ll make a really nice iced tea (maybe the weather will hold enough for a nice jubilee/commonwealth iced tea).

The macaroons turned out to have several lives in them. A flagrant rebel, I put the tea and the macaroons in separate houses (consolidating at the moment) so couldn’t follow Rhian’s suggestion of having them together. Instead I put the macaroons in my handbag *intending* to eat them very soon. By the time they swam to the top of my handbag again, I thought “uh oh I am an ungrateful selfishperson”. Yet, the miracle of Rhian’s baking meant they were still pretty moist and flavorsome. So I apologise, but also thank you Rhian. I’ve enjoyed them in some different ways. One was to crunch one up and add it to my post-netball smoothie:I also crumbled another one on the top of my fudge flavoured ice-cream. Cinnamon and coconut both go well with fudge and ice-cream, so a macaroon of both was bound to be awesome. It was. I felt a bit of a culinary genius. You don’t need to be Nigella and make hot chocolate sauce on a whim. Just crumble a biscuit. (Though these macaroons were a lot more than biscuits.)

Then to the recipe book. I love books. I really love recipe books*. I really love cold things. I under-use my ice-cream maker. What a perfect choice. I’d said to Rhian that I’d enjoyed getting a recipe in my previous packages, so would like one if it was possible from her. A book full of them is indeed inspirational. Lots of ideas for fruity lollies, sorbets, granitas and a host of other iced things. The recipe that caught my eye the most was ‘Watermelon Granita’. It caught my eye because I’d just bought a watermelon from the market and when I got it home and cut it open, well, it had lost it’s bite, but wasn’t manky. Spongy watermelon isn’t what you want.

So I took inspiration from the recipe (I say that because I’ve left the recipe book at my other house and can’t remember it all).

What I did was use my juicer to juice the flesh of the watermelon. If you’re familiar with juicers, you have a pulp compartment and the jug comes out a spout into a jug. After the juicing of my medium sized watermelon, I noticed that the pulp part clearly had a lot of juice in it too. I scooped the pulp into the middle of a clean tea towel and squeezed the rest of the juice out. I think I probably had close to 2 pints of juice.

Then I heated 200ml of water with 150g caster sugar until the sugar was all dissolved. I let this cool down while I grated the zest of a lime to the watermelon and then added the juice of that same lime. The sugar syrup was cool by now, so I swished it in with my watermelon/lime juice. Then I plugged my ice cream maker in and churned it til it was like a slushy that you get at the cinema.

Here my watermelon syrup is churning silkily. I am aware that it sounds like I have all of the kitchen kit. To be fair I do. If you don’t, you can I am sure get the same result by mashing the watermelon and squeezing it all through a tea-towel. The to freeze, put it in a tupperware and keep taking it out and stirring it with a fork. Granita is I think meant to be a bit chunky, a bit crystalline.

I had to try some and it was GOOD. Much more limey than I had anticipated. I don’t think I need to buy a brightly coloured Slush Puppy again. I even caught the last of the sun in the garden. And inspiration struck once more:

I hope growing watermelon seeds inside a watermelon isn’t some sort of fruitarian cannibalism. I do think its a natural plant pot. Maybe even looks a bit stylish? Eat your heart out Chelsea, Beeston is where the cutting-edge gardening is happening. Just you wait til you see my entirely imagainary rockery.

With my muses flowing, I began to make another iced thing. This time a ‘Chilli and Lime Sorbet’, but I had to go to work, so the syrup is growing some muscles in our fridge to be churned tomorrow:

That is some sugar, some lime, some chilli and some honey, waiting to be churned with more lime juice. Tingly tastebud ahoy!

To close, thank you very much for my package Rhian. Little did I know when I opened it that I would be led to ruminations over cannibal watermelons. I did know (pretty much as soon as I saw Rhian’s name on the list) that she’d send a lovely thoughtful parcel, and she totally came up trumps.

Thanks Rhian, Thanks RockSalt.

Keep offalling!

*If you’d like to participate in a cookbook swap – go to SoupTuesday!

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Hybrid Chocolate Chip Cookies

29 May

A while ago it was the Snooker World Championship. Me and the Glorious Gentleman both well love the snooks. He has a blog and its joys. While we were watching the snooks, on the bank holiday weekend, a terrible thing occurred. We ran out of snacks. We also were low on ingredients. And biscuits were NECESSARY. Neither of us could leave the coverage. Uh oh.

Obviously I cook a lot of meat. I have also been known to bake. A few years ago I got a bit obsessed with cupcakes and tried to bake my way through cupcake recipe book I’d been given. I got about a fifth of the way through and then ran out of mileage. However the above dilemma could only really be solved by putting my baking gloves on again and making some biscuits.

I’d read a while ago on twitter a recipe link to hazelnut butter chocolate chip cookies. But I lost the link*. Anyway, the point is I went off to find abother recipe. I found one. I converted the measurements. I measured my butter. Too little. Too little for even a half batch. Uh oh. Then through the power of the internet I found a recipe for butterless ones with olive oil. Ha! says my over-educated brain. I will combine the two. Other hybridisation factors came into play – such as no chocolate chips? Just use Easter Egg!

Here is a Hybrid Chocolate Cookie Recipe. Feel free to free-style with it. It could be an either/or recipe substituting butter or oil. There’s no brown sugar involved! Versatile!

The recipe doesn’t make those melt-all-flat cookies but does make those chunky New England (?) ones.

The recipes that I combined are from here and here. Both blogs are well worth a peruse, so head over. Especially the second, which is based in New Zealand. I liked the recipe for Anzac biscuits there.

Look, you can see Ronnie in the picture.

Ingredients:

  • Flour – 500g/ 2 quarter cups
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Sugar – 250g/1 cup
  • Fat: oil quarter cup; butter 1 and quarter cups; if using mix go to third of a cup/100g ratio doesn’t appear to matter
  • Liquid sugar: honey, golden syrup, maple syrup, jam –  2 tbsp. Don’t have any – either leave out or up the granulated sugar.
  • Chocolate – as much as you like! I quartered half a pack of Rolos and broke a 100g easter egg up. Other recipes say 1 ounce.

So cream together the fat and the sugar and the liquid sugar form/s. Add the eggs and mix in. Add the chocolate and mix. Sieve the flour and the baking powder in and mix. If it looks a little dry (to my judgement if it doesn’t have the consistency of the dough in Cookie Dough ice cream) then add a teaspoon or two of milk or water.

Roll them into little balls and then flatten them between your hands, so they are still quite thick. They don’t really melt down very much so that will be the thickness of your biscuit.Put on a greased baking sheet. Bake in the oven at just above gas mark 4 or 190 degrees C.

The point I’m really wanting to get across is to be brave in your baking and cooking and, especially if you have the internet on hand, nothing is a disaster!

It got me thinking as to whether you could make a recipe table/spreadsheet that had axes where you could calculate your recipe according to what you have in the cupboard? Has that been done? Is it crazy talk?

*I have now found it through google. I am quite rubbish at the internet sometimes. I really want to make some ones with all the nut butters and nut oils. New ambition!

Rendering your own lard (and my Lardy Oatcakes)

21 May

Really this should have been part of all my nosetotailings, but for reasons of space and time, I didn’t manage to use the lard until it was over. Yes, the suspense is lifted, I did manage to render some of my own lard. Nigella, eat your pancreas out!

The principle behind rendering your own animal fat into usuable storable fat is quite simply. The thing that makes natural fat go off is the cell tissue and membranes, if you melt it enough the fat will spearate from them and you can size them away. However it is a slow process, and I would do a couple of things differently. Also I’m not sure I’d have done it if I hadn’t had a slow cooker. (You must be converted to my slow cooker by now.)

There are two types of rendering of lard: wet and dry. Dry rendering you very gently over a long time heat the fat on its own until the cells and tissue break down which then forms a crusty surface. Wet rendering you again heat it long and slow, but with the addition of water, which stops the fat from burning. As we all know, fat and water don’t mix so well, so you can just pour the water off.

WARNING. I have no idea about weights and measurements as I used the fat I got off the head of Arthur after we’d feasted on him. There will be a lot of ‘some’s. If you google ‘Rendering your own lard’ there are a lot more precise recipes than mine (for example here and here).

So basically:

  1. Chop you fat very small.
  2. Add it to a slow cooker.
  3. Cover this with water (fat floats, make sure it’s all floating).
  4. Put the lid on.
  5. Switch the low and cook for 4 days. (I forgot to tell my boyfriend to turn it off whilst I was away for a night.) Keep it topped up with water.

When you top it up with water, it will bubble in an alarming fashion. Watch this if you don’t believe me:

When you think it’s melted enough, strain it all through a tea towel (or muslin) into a bowl. Let it cool, then tip the water that will have gathered underneath away. You will now have some lard in a bowl. It’s that simple.

What would I do differently next time? Two things. First I would freeze the fat and then use a grater to make the pieces really small, thus cutting the rendering time. Second, I’m not sure I needed to heat it for 4 days. I think that was excessive, so I would monitor that more carefully next time.

So what do you do with the lard that you have rendered? Well, there’s lots of things – you can use instead of butter or oil in anything. It’s meant to make amazing pastry. It’s a mono-saturated fat, apparently, which is the same as avocado oil, so it’s healthier than the term LARD now suggests. As you may have guessed, what I did do was make my own oatcakes with it. One, I bloody love oatcakes. Two, I thought they’d be a good vehicle for ‘tasting the lard’. (I was also quite proud and wanted the send my foodie penpal something lardy, but wasn’t sure if a jar of lard would be a welcome gift in the post.)

So. Lucy’s Oatcakes. Oatcakes a la Lucy. Das Lutzykuchen!

You need:

150ml water, 8oz medium oatmeal, quarter tsp baking powder, quarter tsp salt, 1 generous tbsp of lard (or butter, or oil), 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp black mustard seeds.

What you do:

Put the water in a small pan and add the lard to it, heat until lard is melted.

Put the oatmeal and seasonings in a bowl, mix them together.

Add the water/lard mixture and mix it all up til you have a firm ball.

Roll this out with a rolling pin on a floured surface, then cut it into bits, or for little mouth-sized morsels, use a cookie cutter.

Put on a greased baking sheet and bake at Gas Mark 4 for twenty minutes, turning them over half way through.

Cool and feast yourself on the Lutzykuchen!

Magen Sie Lutzykuchen? Moechten Sie Lutzykuchen essen? Lutzykuchen schmecht mir gut!*

This introduces something *almost* not offal to the blog – is that a good idea?

(I lost the photos I took, so stole this one off my lovely foodie penpal. It is much better than any I could have taken.)

*I apologise to anyone German, sincerely. Mein Deutsch ist gefahrlich!

Lincolnshire Haslet – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 14

16 May

Wow. The last day of nose to tail fortnight and my eating along the animal challenge.

How do I feel? Full of meat. I’ve got a craving for cauliflower.

How far along the animal did I get? All the way, baby!

Here is the full nose to tail body part list: pig head, cow foot, pig lung, cow heart, deer kidney, chicken liver, cow stomach, lamb testicle, pig trotter, cow tail, sausages and caul fat.

Haslet seemed a fitting way to end my nose to tail fortnight. Here is what wikipedia says:

Haslet, also spelt ‘Acelet’, is a porkmeatloaf with herbs originally from Lincolnshire, England. The name is derived from the Old Frenchhastilles meaning entrails[1].

In Lincolnshire, haslet (pronounced hayzleht locally), is a meatloaf typically made from stale white bread, ground pork, sage, salt and black pepper.[2] It is typically served cold with pickles and salad, or as a sandwich filling.[citation needed]

Basically it is offal and off-cuts ground up with sage, salt and pepper; the pressed out of it; wrapped in caul fat; then baked. I haven’t tried to make it myself, mostly because Hargreaves of Spalding make the best ones and I try to alway have one in my Leeds-based freezer. It freezes really well and defrosts gently over-night.

I like to eat the end slices by themselves. As well as eating it cold, you can also fry it up and have it warm. A very versatile pork product indeed. The top should be a darker colour (due to the baking). If you look carefully at the picture above, you can see the pattern of the caul fat on the top. The caul keeps the haslet bound together.

In my sandwich on Sunday, I added fresh sage leaves and a few leaves of Jack-by-the-hedge. That made an excellent sandwich.

Don’t buy the stuff from the supermarket deli counter. It is minging. If you do, I’ll play you this Cyndi Lauper clip very early in the morning, so you faint from over-exposure to Shaggy. That’s real threat.

If you’d like to try a proper one, it can be arranged. You can either find a proper Lincolnshire butcher (if he doesn’t rub his hands together, he’s not the real deal) or send me a message and I can be your dealer.

Another Lincolnshire delicacy to try is Stuffed Chine. Shaggy loves it.*

 

*I imagine he does.

Real Jelly – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 13

15 May

This post is actually a bit of a swizz. Sorry. I made this a week ago, but I knew I would be away at the weekend (Dilston Physic Garden, since you ask), so scheduled this post to go on today. My real day 13 will involve going to a Herbology Room (yeah that’s right) and learning about herbal medicines, rather than stewing the foot of a cow. Sozbad.

Anyhow, I’d read a recipe for making your own jelly in ‘Odd Bits’ from the great Jennifer McLagan. I had also seen cow feet for sale at the African butcher. 2 + 2 = four jellies, or something. The first thing you need to do is ask your butcher if you can have/they can get you one or two feet of a cow. They come hairless. And are also naturally meatless. The butcher should use their band saw/cleaver to cut them into pieces for you. I just got one foot. Here is my big bag of bones:

It was pretty heavy in all honesty. Need to invest in a granny trolley for Bone Shopping Trips.

So to make jelly from scratch, it’s pretty easy and basically involves stages of boiling and straining. I’d never done this before and was slightly haunted by something I read in a Jacqueline Wilson book where the vegan mother of a step-daughter made her seaweed jelly from scratch when she was ill and proper jelly was what the child wanted, but the step-mother wouldn’t compromise on her values and well the seaweed jelly from scratch wasn’t a hit. I don’t remember the book. Anyway, I didn’t want to be the person making bad jelly from good morals.

IF YOU HAPPEN TO TRY THESE INSTRUCTIONS, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF KEEPING/DISCARDING THE JUICE. IT CHANGES. I FEEL CAPITALS ARE NECCESSARY.

  1. Put feet in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Strain. Keeping the bones. Discard the juice.
  2. Return to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for four hours. Strain and RESERVE LIQUID. Leave in bowl to cool.
  3. When cool, skim fat from surface.
  4. Measure your liquid. Put into clean pan.
  5. For every 1 pint of liquid you have – add 3 ounces sugar and 90ml extra liquid (i.e. orange juice for flavour). The extra liquid is not compulsory. Other ways to add flavour include zesting oranges and lemons, adding essences, essential oils, grating fruit in (but not pineapple or kiwi as they don’t set i believe), and so on. I added 90ml orange juice and grated 4 big strawberries in.
  6. Once you’ve added juice and fruit and whatevers, then add the white of one egg and it’s crushed shell. NO YOLK. (Do you see what I did there?)
  7. Bring to the boil, whisking. When boils set aside for ten minutes to settle.
  8. Now strain through a clean tea towel or muslin cloth.
  9. (Optional second* boiling and finer straining will make jelly clearer – just repeat 7 and 8).
  10. Refrigerate until needed.

What I should have done, was DEFINITELY DONE the second fine straining. I didn’t so the jellies were quite cloudy. What none of us anticipated was that the bones give it a slightly milky taste. So the strawberry jelly tasted like strawberry milkshake jelly. It was nice. The other thing I learnt, was that fresh jelly doesn’t keep as long as normal. I took one to work a few days later and it was totally BLEURGH.

Would I make it again? Yes. But for a special occasion and try a more grown up flavour – maybe like hazelnut or almond? Any ideas for jelly flavours? I might try an elderflower or a hawthorn flower … I think a second straining might remove most of that milkiness, so a delicate flavour would work I’m sure. The consistency of the jelly was super velvety.

 

*but not really since you should definitely do it

Lung Soup – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 12

14 May

Lungs.

Also called lights.

They’re not a commonly heard offal I hear you cry. I don’t think Lucy has even cooked with them. (I have, FYI, in my forthcoming haggis post.) Who would want to eat a lung? There’s probably a reason we don’t eat them.

Well, I’ll have you know that lungs are described by many as tofu-like, or mushroomy. Does that make it sound better?

There are a couple of recipes for lung soup that are around. I’ve read a few online and I’ve read Jennifer McLagan’s in ‘Odd Bits’. If there’s one in the Fith Quarter, then I’ve read that too. So I did all the reading and preparation. Then I freestyled. That’s quite typical. Generally I’m either a recipNazi, or I say “It’ll be fine, we’ll just make it up, food is food” and so on. With the latter there is always a risk. (The blood episode sticks out.)

Why don’t we eat lungs? They are cheap – £1 for a pair – they only come in pairs. I know there are some issues surrounding supply. When I made the haggis I had to telephone EVERY BUTCHER in Leeds to get hold of them. But they were lamb’s lungs. The ones you can get at Leeds market are pig’s. I’ve noticed with the nosetotail malarky that pork offal seems to be the easiest to get hold of. Do you find that true?

Anyway, back to the lungs.

I soaked my lungs in repeated fresh bowls of cold water for about an hour. This gets excess blood to come out. They feel spongy.

Perhaps not the most appetising looking of meats. They look pale because I took this picture after quite a lot of the blood had come out.

My lungs came with windpipe attached. I did a naughty thing and threw it away. Mostly because I was very tired and simmering a windpipe for small amount of stock didn’t appeal. Bad offaltarian.I then decided I was only going to use one lung today, so put the other in the freezer.

Then I got involved with my hands. There’s a membrane surrounding the lungs that is easy to peel off with your fingers. I’m not sure if you have to do that or not, but it was hampering my chopping, so I took it away.

If you’ve done GCSE Biology, you’ll know that lungs are full of tubes. Branchioles? Some of these are soft enough to eat, but if they look a bit bit or a bit tough, chop round them. Bearing in mind that the biggest ones are where the windpipe joins the lungs, I started my morsel chopping from the bottom of the lung. I found scissors easier to use than a knife.

So snip, snip, snip. I was quite tired when I was doing this, so I forgot to take any photos. SOZBAD. If you’re interested, get in touch and I talk you through my lung scissoring technique. You end up with a pile of tubes (for the bin, or stockpot, or hound) and a pile of lung tissue.

Then I sliced 1 leek and chopped 1 onion and fried them together gently in a pan. I added 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp dried parsley, 1 tsp oregano, quarter tsp suma spice, quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon. Stir it all around. Then add the lung bits. They cook really fast.

You can see the darker bits are the lung morsels, a couple are still a bit pink, so you can see how they change.

Then add 1 can chopped tomatoes and an equal amount of pork stock. I, of course, used my head stock. You could use any. Even chicken. Or vegetable. The simmer for about twenty minutes. The soup is quite a chunky one. Don’t blitz it.

And there you have it. An unusual soup.

What I realised whilst I was eating it, was that lung is totally in my all time favourite soup – Baxters’ Royal Game. If you’ve not had it. Do. it’s amazing. All through my life it’s been my poorly soup and it is DELICIOUS.

There’s even a stag on the front. So it must be amazing. That’s if you follow the wine rule, where the bottle with the cutest animal on is definitely the most delicious.

Sausages – Nose to Tail Fortnight Day 11

11 May

The end of the week is always super busy. On Thursday I played netball until ten o clock. When I got home I realised I’d not had any dinner. What to eat?

Sausages!

Well one sausage. The lonesome sausage. In the freezer. Shivering for some love. I ate him with a fried egg.

Sausages were originally designed to use up all the offally parts. I’m pretty sure a lot still do, so that’s why I’m eating them. The posher ones I buy, I’m sure have never seen an organ, but it’s a difficult question to ask.

One day I will make my own sausages.

Then I will rule the world.