Archive for February 2009

Trotter and Ham Hock Terrine.

February 26th, 2009 — 12:30pm

Yes I know, we just had ham hock. Problem is, I tend to get a little obsessed with ingredients. This past week or so I have worked my way through three (yes, three) of the fat, porky loins. I went into the butcher with the intention of purchasing four rashers of bacon for my lunch, but I came out with an extra two ham hocks, two trotters and a wedge of black pudding. I think I need to find some sort of piggy addicts rehab.

I googled trotters meets hock and found this recipe, which I made the same day, even though it did leave me standing over a hot pot of pig at 1am on a Friday morning. I cooled it, packed it, weighed it down and fridged it, ready for some weekend feasting.

On Sunday morning, the piggy theme continued as I was roused by the sound of sizzling and the smell of caramelised fat wafting into the bedroom. Being the cynic that I am however, alarm bells started ringing – why is he making surprise breakfast? I don’t remember any nagging – have I been nagging in my sleep? And then he appears, standing sheepishly at the end of the bed, and my sleepy ears prick up at news of an imminent ‘confession’. “I’m really reeeally sorry.” What? “I’m so sorry.” What? “Its the terrine.” WHAT? “Last night, after you went to bed. We were drunk..I…we…didn’t mean to…I didn’t know what I was doing.”

I give him the most annoyed glare I can muster at 8am on a Sunday and finally extract the full story – it turns out those cheeky boys only ate a little slice off the end after all, bless ‘em. I never knew I was so scary. I decide to milk the guilt for a further five minutes to secure a bedside brew, then I let it go and all is forgiven. Although not before I’ve bartered for an extra sausage.

Later on that day, the offical terrine tasting commences. The meat, trotters and some belly have been cooked in a broth flavoured with aromatics (e.g. onion, carrot, celery, bay), then removed to cool, the meat picked, packed and the broth strained and poured over. The trotters provide a natural source of gelatine as the recipe explains, so you just weigh it down in the fridge and it sets.

At first I was a little unnerved by the appearance of the finished terrine. In its full-length form, you would be forgiven for speculating whether it is fit for human consumption. I can allay your fears on this point however, it is more than acceptable, it is delicious and it just gets better with age. Big chunks of meat suspended in ultra-savoury jelly, just begging for a bit of crispy toast and a pickle or two. I wanted picallili but didn’t have time to make any so we settled for a crude arrangement of pickled onions, cornichons, slaw and salad.

And, from one obsession to another. Having finally purged myself of the hock fixation, I am now hankering after a pâté. That’s after I’ve gone veggie for a week. Starting on Monday perhaps. I’ve already pre-ordered pork belly for a meal this evening and I make no apologies whatsoever.

29 comments » | Meat, Pâtés, Terrines and Things of That Ilk.

Smoked Ham Hock Pie.

February 20th, 2009 — 9:59am

This is a belated Valentine’s day post, although personally, I think it’s a load of rubbish – my partner and I don’t need a ‘special day’ born out of rampant commercialism to express our love for each other. Still, gives one a good starting point on the food front doesn’t it? We invited two friends over for dinner and I thought about how to create a little bit of luuurve, on a plate.

It’s winter, it’s cold and so I crave the pie – all the time. Deep filled, meaty pie with unctuous oozy sauce and buttery pastry. Pure comfort food. First I toyed with the idea of using lamb shanks in a pie, all St. John style with the bones sticking out the top. When I googled to see if anyone else had done a lamb shank pie though – Jamie O had already been there, which put me off for some reason. So, I finally decided on ham, big chunks of smoked ham – lots of pink bits for your valentine.

I managed to completely stuff up the pastry top, by slinging it onto the filling with way too much enthusiasm (after drinking way too much wine). Still, it’s a pie so…I just patched it up a bit and stuck some pastry hearts on top for ‘decoration’, thinking no-one would notice once I dished it up anyway.

And they didn’t (or they didn’t say). It was a big thumbs up all round, although I know it was a bit salty. This is probably down to the fact I didn’t let the ham hock soak long enough. Saltyness aside though, it really hit the spot, especially with a dollop of minty peas.

I got even more out of the cheap as chips (£2.15) ham hock, by reserving a little meat and the cooking liquor for this classic soup recipe the following night –  – now there’s a valentine’s gift that keeps on giving.

Smoked Ham Hock Pie
(I would advise soaking the hock for at least a few hours or overnight before discarding the water and cooking as below)

1 smoked ham hock
1 carrot
10 peppercorns
1 stick celery
1 large onion, peeled and halved plus 1 small one finely chopped, for the filling
4 bay leaves, torn
1 large leek, finely shredded
1 clove garlic
1 standard pack shortcrust pastry (sorry, don’t know the weight but it’s enough to cover the top of your pie dish..)
1 egg, beaten


425ml milk
8 black pepper corns
1 bay leaf
40g butter
20g plain flour
Salt and pepper
A pinch of mace or nutmeg
A large handful cheddar cheese

– Put the hock, halved onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2-4 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.
– Remove the ham and set aside, strain the liquor and reserve for later use.
– Cook the leeks and onion gently in butter until soft – about 10 minutes, then add the garlic for a further 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, make the bechamel.
– Put the milk, bay leaf, mace or nutmeg and peppercorns into a pan and bring slowly up to simmering point.
– Remove from the heat and strain the milk into a jug.
– In a clean pan, melt the butter gently, add the flour and stir to a paste. Add a little milk at a time, stirring to make sure all is incorporated.
– Start adding larger quantities, as if you are making mayonnaise, stirring with a whisk.
– When the lumps are gone, add the cheese and whisk again until smooth.
– Remove the meat from the hock, taking care to avoid the fattiest bits and combine with the leek mixture and the bechamel. Transfer to a pie dish. Roll out the pastry to desired thickness (I dunno, 1cm?) and top the pie with it. Brush with beaten egg.
– Bake at 190°C/ 375°F/Gas 5 for about an hour until golden brown.

22 comments » | Meat, Pies

Bompas and Parr: The Jellymongers

February 15th, 2009 — 11:46am

I’m sure many of you recognise the names, as (Sam) Bompas and (Harry) Parr are pretty hot in Londinium right now – their jelly has been on the menu at the brilliant Hawksmoor (swoon) for some time, they’ve hosted some of the coolest events in the city (think ‘flavour tripping’ – more of that in a minute) and just last week they provided jelly for one of the city’s emerging ‘underground restaurants’.

I was excited then, to find myself at B & P’s office/workshop/actually their house, chatting about blogging and jelly. It turns out the jelly mongers are completely charming, and patient – I got hopelessly lost as usual and it took three phone calls, repeated wandering of streets and eventually, Sam coming down to find me before I joined the team for a much needed brew.

Sam wins me over instantly by telling me he made my chilli and loved it. Clever man knows the way to a cook’s heart. He apologises many times for ‘the mess’, although seriously, it’s not that bad. Not when I think of my flat anyway. I assume that what he considers ‘mess’ is the collection of moulds, prototypes and pictures everywhere, which to me, an outsider, is just plain cool.

Bompas and Parr make jellies to order, in any conceivable shape or size. Harry Parr (previously an architect) draws up all the designs first on the computer and they are then made into plaster protoypes and plastic moulds. Weird and wonderful quivering masterpieces have included a jelly ‘airport’ and a jelly wedding cake – it seems that anything is possible in the world of wobble.

Sam tells me they have some of the wibbly stuff in the fridge right now, disappearing and returning with a heart shaped mould filled with clear jelly, gold leaf suspended inside (for a Market Kitchen Valentine’s Day piece – gin and tonic flavour).

This TV project seems relatively tame however, compared to some of B & P’s previous creations. It’s hard to miss a gingerbread replica of the gherkin standing tall in the corner of the room and a look around their website reveals a sandwich consisting of a crispy kreme donut filled with bacon – so naughty my heart misses a beat just looking at it. Last night they created the UK’s first ‘scratch and sniff cinema’, screening ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover’ – where the audience enjoyed the scents of ‘rotting meat’ and ‘dusty books’. I had a sneak preview of the scents while I was there and seriously, they were pretty realistic.

Just when I think I’ve heard it all, Sam asks if I’ve ever tried ‘flavour tripping’. I reply in the negative. Flavour tripping, he explains is an experience made possible by a ‘miracle berry’ (Synsepalum Dulcificum), which makes ‘lemons taste like toffee and vinegar like sherry’. Bompas and Parr threw the UK’s first public flavour tripping party last year and when I ask how they got their mitts on this magical substance, Sam tells me how purchasing ‘supplies’ is easy as Bompas and Parr is a registered chemical research company. Of course it is.

In the midst of all this fascinating chatter, I ask possibly the most boring question you can ask a jelly monger – what’s your favorite flavour? Sam responds like a pro however, not a flicker of despair in his face at the sheer tedium of my conversation – it’s ‘strawberry and mint, made with fresh mint’. Sounds delicious, very summery. I imagine a different me, punting down the Isis, eating strawberry and mint jelly and quaffing champage.

Before I leave, Sam bestows upon me a small gift – six ‘flavour trips’ – as far as I know, perfectly legal. He gives me intructions to let one dissolve slowly on my tongue and then let the tasting commence. I have come close to taking one of these tablets three times now, and each time, something intervenes. Yesterday then, I went and bought myself a bag of lemons and a bottle of finest malt (vinegar). This weekend, thanks to the jelly mongers, I’m ready to trip like a teenager.

*top photo from the Bompas and Parr website.

22 comments » | Lovely Food Producing People

Lamb Shanks Braised with Figs, Star Anise & Blood Orange.

February 8th, 2009 — 9:13pm

Yesterday I enjoyed a gloriously lengthy and varied day of food shopping. Setting off around midday, I stopped first at my local butcher for these shanks, before hopping on the train to Borough Market, specifically to visit Brindisa for a chorizo sandwich (for the next SATC). From there, on to Covent Garden Tea House (to get a present for @Rossella76 – more of that soon), then to Peckham’s Wing Tai supermarket (for miso soup ingredients) and finally (phew!) stopping at the local Sainsbury’s for some extras. Now that’s what I call food shopping.

I’m glad I made the most of the sunshine yesterday, because now we have rain – perfect lamb shank weather. I realise there’s been a lot of meat recently on Food Stories, but I hope you don’t mind me sneaking another one in. The shanks were a bit of an experiment really as, even with all that ingredient shopping, I really hadn’t planned a recipe for them.

Looking through the day’s haul, the blood oranges were winking at me through their bright red paper packaging, so I decided to use some peel in the braise. A rummage in the cupboard also turned up some dried figs, which I thought would be delicious with a little star anise, at least if Wholefood’s fig and anise bread is anything to go by.

The overall idea was to create a sweet, spiced sauce for the lamb, with (hopefully), enough tang coming through from the oranges. I threw in a few other aromatics as a base (onion, garlic, carrot, celery) and some weakish stock (from a cube, shock horror!) and cooked them very slowly for just shy of four hours.

By this time, the meat just fell off the bone, so melty and tender. I’m happy to report that the sauce was also a success. Deep, sweet, spicy (Greg Wallace) and flecked with fig seeds. I served the lamb on top of cous cous, flavoured with mint and blood orange zest, which soaked up all of those wonderful juices and freshened up the whole dish rather nicely.

Tummy full, I gave myself a pat on the back for coming up trumps in the ‘invention test’ and then again for having bought a third shank, just in case (even though it did cost me nearly £8 for three). We gobbled up the leftovers barely an hour after the first sitting. That’s a whole lotta sheep in my belly. So it’s fish, fruit and veg for Food Stories this week, I’m in need of a little cleansing. Not a bad way to finish a meat binge though, even if I do say so myself.

Lamb Shanks Braised with Figs, Star Anise and Blood Orange.
(I realise that three shanks is a bit of an odd number for a recipe, but it’s a one pot, slow cooking job, so quantities don’t need to be exact, just add a bit more stock if you have a fourth shank).

3 lamb shanks
2 small onions, peeled and halved
1 carrot, halved
1 stick celery
8 dried figs, de-stemmed and quartered
4 strips blood orange zest and juice of half (plus extra zest, about 1 tablespoon, for the cous cous)
2 star anise
3 cloves garlic, peeled
800ml hot stock (ideally lamb, but I was desperate and just used a chicken stock cube)
Small handful mint, chopped
Cous cous (enough for three people? who knows, its just cous cous)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil/groundnut oil or whatever you use
I also rubbed a tablespoon of ground coriander seeds and a few ‘bruised’ caraway seeds onto the shanks. I was after fennel seeds but ran out and used caraway instead. I’m not sure how much difference the spices made to the overall flavour.

– Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
– Season the shanks with salt and pepper and rub in the spices if using. Heat the oil in a heavy based pan (such as a cast iron skillet) and brown the shanks on all sides (about 6-8 minutes in total), before removing to an oven dish or casserole, ideally.
– In the same pan, brown the onion, carrot and celery for about 5 minutes, before adding to the oven dish with the lamb. Add the star anise, orange zest and juice, garlic, figs and stock before covering tightly with a lid or foil (or both) and cooking until the meat falls away from the bone. Many recipes say 2.5-3 hours for this but I cooked mine for 4.
– To make the cous cous, pour some hot stock or water onto it, until it just covers, and leave for 5 minutes or so before fluffing up with a fork and adding salt and pepper, chopped mint and the orange zest.
– Remove the shanks to a warm plate and put the oven dish on the stove (on the heat), adding a little slackened cornflour if you want to thicken the sauce. Give the vegetables, figs etc. a good mush down into the sauce and then strain it through a sieve, pressing to get as much flavour as possible.
– Serve each shank on top of a pile of cous cous, with that yummy sauce poured all over it.

23 comments » | Fruit, Main Dishes, Meat

Bánh Mì at Café Bay.

February 5th, 2009 — 10:23pm

[Edit: Their shredded caramel pork banh mi is much better than this one. Try it].

I’ve searched for a bánh mì in London (without success) since I first arrived, so I was amazed to find I have been working a measly two minute stroll away from one (Café Bay has five different Vietnamese fillings on the menu), for the last two and a half years.

Café Bay (Camberwell) – Bánh Mì.

Where: 75 Denmark Hill, London, SE5 8RS.
When: 5th Feb – lunchtime.
What: Bánh Mì is a Vietnamese sandwich, featuring contrasting flavours and textures usually including pickled vegetables, chilli, cucumber and spiced meat – in a baguette.

Bread: A bog standard baguette, the really soft kind. Not usually a personal favourite but I liked it for the bánh mì.

Flavour: I thought it only right and proper to go for the ‘Bay Special’, pâté with two kinds of pork – spiced and ‘regular’. So, we have chilli on the bottom, then the spiced meat, then the rich pâté, mayonnaise, crunchy cucumber, fresh coriander and awesome pickled carrot (I was sad when I realised there was no daikon). It’s all about the contrasts. There’s one major problem, but that’s coming next.
Quality: The spiced pork also had huge, tough, rubbery flabs of fat, with a really hard ‘rind’. I’m always up for pork fat but I couldn’t eat it. Shame, because the spicing was tasty. There was also luncheon meat. [Edit: I’ve since come around to luncheon meat – guilty pleasure ahoy. See my SPAM mi]

Quantity: Average lunchtime baguette size.
Textures: Lots of great contrasts, apart from the pork rind/fat stuff.
Spreads/Dressings/Sauces: The combo of mayo and pâté was a bit alien to me at first but I really got into it.
Assembly: Lightning fast and sound. Good even distribution.

Value for Money: £3
Service: The lady who makes the sandwiches smiled and spoke to me for the first time ever when I ordered this – mostly I rock up with a hangover and ask for a bacon butty. I think she was pleased with me.

Overall Score: 6/10

18 comments » | Sandwiches, Sandwiches and The City

Scotch Eggs: Baked vs. Fried.

February 2nd, 2009 — 4:49pm

Is it just me, or does anyone else spend their time in the pub this way? Debating important and potentially life-changing conundrums such as – ‘pork or beef?’ (if you could only eat one for the rest of your life), ‘tomato ketchup or brown sauce?’ (in a bacon sandwich, naturally) and now this – the probability of turning out a decent, oven-baked scotch egg*. Instinct says it can’t be done, but then I started wondering – maybe we should be giving the baking a chance? Just how well could they really hold up against traditionally fried counterparts? There’s only one way to find out for a geek like me.

I used a recipe from Paganum’s food blog, fitting because they also supplied the meat (me gushing about them here) and followed the basic gist, swapping parsley for sage and employing a cheeky little clingfilm method for the assembly.

Lay out a meaty bed for your hard-boiled egg on a piece of clingfilm.

Plonk the egg in the middle.

Gather up the sides and squish the meat around the egg.

And, they are ready for a good egging and crumbing…

…like so. Except, FAIL #1: I didn’t have enough oil for deep frying and so had to shallow fry and cross my fingers instead. They looked great, an excellent golden colour, so I carefully spooned them out to let the excess oil drain off.

Then an excruciating wait (at least three minutes), before I finally gave in and cut one open. Only to find…raw sausagemeat – oops. I made the sausage layer too thick, leaving it still uncooked in places. Either that, or the shallow frying method failed me. Probably a bit of both (FAIL #2).

So, they go in the oven with the baked eggs anyway, which basically ruins the experiment. In the interests of all being right and good however, here’s the results.

As you can see, the oven baked egg looks anaemic in comparison to the fried and it doesn’t have the same calibre of ‘crust’. That said, those baked eggs are pretty damn crispy anyway (I turned them during cooking) – still immensely satisfying. And inside?

The baked is on the right in this picture and I can honestly say, no difference whatsoever within the crumb – both as perfectly juicy and delicious as the other. So all things considered, there ain’t much between them but you’re going to go for the fried, right? Right. Because the golden crunch is important dammit! All of which means that here we have yet another example of why you don’t bother making a low fat version of a high fat snack. It’s never going to be the same, you’re missing the point.

And so what advice can I actually pass on after all that fuss? Don’t eat three scotch eggs all to yourself, that’s what. Not all in the space of an hour anyway. The after effects are not desirable and include nausea, guilt and an extra inch on the waistline. On the upside, the taste and texture is out of this world – a totally different experience to those supermarket fakes – yucky egg mayonnaise inside grey, textureless flesh (God knows what that’s made from), and don’t forget the suspiciously hued crumb.

Next time, I’ll either stick with the frying or try misting the baked eggs with oil to brown them up more. I’ll also be having another bash at making home made salad cream to go with them, although I won’t be using this recipe, which needed so much adjustment on my part, it’s too complicated to pass on.

In the meantime, Chris has made some pork and apple ‘sausages’ with the leftover meat, which will later be transformed (I am told), into a toad in the hole, with onion gravy.  Considering Chris’s gift for making perfect Yorkshire puddings, this is a very exciting prospect for my tummy – not to mention perfectly suited to the unusual winter weather!

* Yes I realise all three of those examples involve pork.

33 comments » | Eggs, Lunchbox, Meat, Not Quite Right, Snacks

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