Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Poached Salmon in Aspic

I remember my first encounter with aspic as a child and it wasn't an auspicious one. The dish was Chicken in Aspic and although beautifully decorated I was very reluctant to taste it. Pale, cold chicken covered in jelly just didn't appeal to a 7 year old me! However I have revisited the notion of aspic recently as I have decided to do a cold poached salmon over Christmas and was looking for something that little bit special to pep it up.

Aspic is a clear savoury jelly made of stock or consommé and gelatine and used to glaze meat, fish or vegetables. It is also used to make a mould and you can even it use a sweet version for desserts. It was an old way of preserving food and recipes for aspic date back several hundred years. Originally aspic was made from stock that set like a jelly when cooled (meat stocks have a high natural gelatin content so will set when cold).

Salmon in Aspic

1 large salmon
court bouillon for poaching
300ml of fish stock
1 egg white and the egg shell
1 tbsp dry sherry
15g powdered gelatine

To make Court Bouillon

Court Bouillon is a flavoured liquid used to poaching foods (usually fish but sometimes vegetables and delicately flavoured meats). It differs to stock in that Court Bouillon has a short cooking time in comparison.

2 pints water
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 stick celery, sliced
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
pinch of fresh thyme
6 black peppercorns, bruised
½ pint white wine

Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for an hour, strain and leave to cool.

Poach the salmon in a fish kettle (or baking pan covered with foil) with the court boullion. Once the salmon is cooked drain off the court boullion into a bowl. Peel the skin off the salmon when it has cooled, leaving the skin on the head and tail. Place on a flat plate and put aside in fridge.

To make the aspic add ½ pint of the court bouillon that the salmon was poached in to the fish stock in a saucepan. Boil so that the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg white and add the broken egg shell to clarify. Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth and add the sherry. Stir in the powdered gelatin – keep stirring until it has dissolved. Leave to cool.

Spoon a thin layer of aspic over the salmon. Chill and leave to set. Decorate the salmon with the motif of your choice (you can use thinly sliced cucumber, radish, tomato, red pepper and carrot as well as sprigs of fennel or mint for your design) and then coat with another layer of aspic. Chill. Repeat by adding one last layer of aspic. Allow the Salmon in Aspic to set cold in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Wine Matching
Bordeaux Rosés can accompany a broad spectrum of flavours and are characteristically well balanced wines: smooth, rounded and freshly aromatic.

These crisp and elegant wines have the fruit and body to support full flavoured fish such as salmon and tuna and the acidity to match seafood. They lack the tannins of red wine and can be served chilled at the same temperatures for white wines. Alternatively you could choose a good
Bordeaux White or French Sparkling Wine.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Battenberg Cake with a Christmas Twist

Battenberg Cake is one of my guilty pleasures and with its marzipan (almond paste) coating it always reminds me of Christmas. No one really knows its origins but it's thought that it was invented in the late 1880s.

There is a popular folk myth that Battenberg Cake was created to celebrate the wedding of Prince Louis of Battenberg to Queen Victoria's grand daughter Princess Victoria (grandmother to our Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) in 1884. The theory behind the four sections of the cake is that they represent the four Battenberg Princes but I remember my grandmother making Battenberg Cake with 9 squares when I was a child! Early recipes did indeed have 9 squares and Battenberg Cake was also known as Domino Cake, Neopolitan Roll and Chapel (or Church) Window Cake.

The traditional recipe for Battenberg Cake is below but if you'd like to give it a Christmas twist simply use more red food colouring to deepen the pink colour to red, use green food colouring in the other portion and cover the outer layer of almond paste with white icing.

Battenberg Cake

125g butter
125g caster sugar
2 beaten eggs
125g self raising flour
a couple of drops of red food colouring
1 tbsp raspberry jam
2 tbsp apricot jam

Almond Paste

75g ground almonds
25g semolina
75g caster sugar
75g icing sugar
a few drops of almond essence
beaten egg to bind

Grease two 450g loaf tins and line the bases with greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and sugar together, beat in the eggs and fold in the flour. Divide the mixture into 2 portions and colour one pink with a couple of drops of red food colouring. Place a portion in each tin. Bake in a moderate over (Gas 4, 180ºC) for approx 25 minutes until firm. Remove from tins and cool.

Trim the sides of each loaf and level the tops. Cut each cake in half lengthways – keeping the pieces the same size. Using the raspberry jam sandwich the 4 portions together, arranging pink and white alternately.

For the Almond Paste

Combine the ingredients using enough beaten egg to make a firm paste. Use a piece of waxed paper, sprinkle well with caster sugar and on it rollout the paste to fit around the sides of the cake. Spread the paste with apricot jam and place the cake on the paste at one end. Carefully wrap the paste around the cake, pressing so that it sticks. Press the edges together to seal. Trim the ends of the cake, flute along the top edges and dredge with caster sugar.

Wine Matching

If you have a sweet tooth then Dessert Wine such as Sauternes would be lovely with the marzipan flavour of the Battenberg Cake, those of you who prefer a little zesty fizz to tingle on their tastebuds might like Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé which pairs very well with sweets and desserts.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Bread and Butter – Savoury Puddings and Christmas Dessert

Bread and butter are two of the staple foods of Britain but they can be turned into delicious winter dishes. The traditional Bread and Butter Pudding has long been a nursery favourite but its origins lie long in the past and the puddings were once known as 'whitepot' in Devon and South West England. In Elizabethan times bone marrow was used as an ingredient and I have a savoury recipe for you to try (minus the bone marrow!).

Savoury Bread and Butter Pudding

4 large slices of wholemeal or white bread

Yeast extract
125g grated cheddar cheese
1 small onion, grated
2 beaten eggs
300ml milk
salt and pepper
pinch of dry mustard powder

Butter the bread and spread lightly with yeast extract. Cut into small cubes. Grease an oven proof dish and spread half of the bread cubes on the bottom (buttered side up). Cover these with half of the cheese and then onion. Add the rest of the bread cubes and finally the rest of the cheese. Add the milk and seasoning to the beaten eggs and strain this over the pudding. Bake in a moderate oven (Gas 4, 180ºC) for 35 – 40 minutes.

There are a few variations on this recipe – you can add bacon, chanterelle mushrooms, leeks. pancetta or spinach and change the cheese to Gruyere (excellent with chanterelle mushrooms) or Blue Cheese (good with pancetta).

Christmas Bread and Butter Pudding

I usually make my Bread and Butter Puddings with slices of stale white bread spread with butter, marmalade with a splash of whiskey for good measure but there is a lovely recipe for Christmas Bread and Butter Pudding that uses Panettone (which is great for using it up if you have some left over!).

50g butter, softened (optional)
250g panettone (about 5 medium slices)
2 eggs
142ml carton double cream
225ml milk
Couple of splashes of vanilla essence
pinch of grated nutmeg
2 tbsp caster sugar

Butter the slices of panettone and cut into wedges. Grease an oven proof dish and spread the panettone wedges in the dish (buttered side up). Whisk the eggs, cream, milk, vanilla essence, grated nutmeg and sugar together in a bowl and pour over the panettone. Bake in a moderate oven (Gas 4, 180ºC) for 35 – 40 minutes.

If you wish you can also add left over mincemeat from making mince pies (or even left over Christmas Pudding) or cranberries.

Wine Matching

There are a number of Bordeaux white wines that marry well with cheese but Chateau Ballan Larquette Bordeaux Blanc is made with 50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and pairs beautifully with cheese – from salty feta to tangy roquefort. A good Sauternes such as Chateau Sainte Helene 2004 would pair very well with your Christmas Bread and Butter Pudding – it has gorgeous notes of orange peel and cinnamon that will complement the dish.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Winter Warmers - Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Bordeaux Moelleux

I have been craving hot and spicy food since the winter has started to set in and have found a great recipe for Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Jerk is a style of cooking from Jamaica in which meat is dry rubbed or marinated with hot Jamaican Jerk seasoning. Jerk seasoning can be used on chicken,pork, beef, lamb, sausage, shellfish and tofu. It's main ingredients are Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers, allspice berries and thyme but can also include cinnamon, ginger, cloves, garlic and onion. Once the Jamaican Jerk seasoning has been applied to the food it is oven baked or grilled.

Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers are named for their resemblance to the Tam o'Shanter hat and are exceptionally hot so please be very careful when you are handling and cutting them! They are grown in the Caribbean (where they are called 'Ball of Fire') and change through green to yellow and then red as they ripen.

Allspice (pimenta diocia) is also grown in Jamaica and the berries look like black peppercorns when dried. They are aromatic and smell like a combination of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon (hence their name 'allspice') but they also have a slight peppery flavour. In Jamaica the wood of the allspice tree is used to smoke Jerk and its used as wood chips on barbecues.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

3lb chicken breasts
6 scotch bonnet peppers, sliced
2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp ground allspice
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
½ cup olive oil
½ cup soy sauce
Juice of one lime
1 cup orange juice
1 cup white vinegar

Put the chicken breasts to one side and blend all the other ingredients in a blender to make the Jerk seasoning. Rub the jerk seasoning into the chicken breasts (if there is any left over keep to for basting and dipping). Leave the chicken breasts to marinate in the fridge overnight. Bake in the oven at low/medium heat for 1 hour, turning and basting regularly. Serve with rice cooked in coconut milk, kidney beans, petit pois peas and roasted sweet potatoes.

Wine Pairing

Bordeaux Moelleux such as Chateau Le Rondailh 2011 pairs very well with Afro-Caribbean food and is the perfect companion for spicy, hot dishes. Bordeaux Moelleux is a semi-sweet / off-dry white wine and is absolutely delicious. The sensation of sweetness is both ethereal and light and I think this style of wine is quite exceptional – rounded and supple with mouth quenching acidity and superb balance. It's also good with salty cheeses like Roquefort, Feta and Stilton, seafood, poultry and desserts.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Time to Spice Things Up! Harissa Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pumpkin Couscous

I'm hunting for warming recipes this Autumn and spotted a great dish that uses a Harissa marinade for Lamb. Harissa is a fragrant fiery chilli sauce that is used in the Arab cuisine of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya. It's an orangey red colour and is made from made with red chilli peppers, garlic, mint, caraway, coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper mixed with oil. The word 'Harissa' comes from the arabic 'Harasa' which means 'to pound' (as in pounding the paste in a pestle and mortar!). Harissa is used in North Africa as a condiment – a little like Mustard or Ketchup - but it is also used as the flavour base for soups, stews, curries, couscous and pastas as well as a salad dressing, dipping sauce and marinade for fish and meat. Apparently once tasted it's very moreish so I can't wait to try this recipe.

If you love spicing things up and enjoy chilli Dartmoor Chilli Farm sell a wide range of sauces, oils and vinegars and seasonings (including Harissa Seasoning) – as well as chilli chocolate, fudge and cheese! They also sell chilli plants and seeds They are a green company, farming naturally and holistically without the use of herbicides or pesticides and are also off grid, creating their own electricity (winning the Best Green Business at the South Devon Excellence Awards in 2010).

Harissa Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pumpkin Couscous

1 leg of lamb
4 tbsp Harissa paste
olive oil

Score the leg of lamb with a sharp knife and coat with the Harissa paste. Wrap the leg of lamb in foil or cling film Cover with olive oil and salt. Roast in a preheated oven for 25 mins at 180ºC and then cook for a further 25 mins per each kg of meat. Serve with Pumpkin Couscous.

For the Pumpkin Couscous

½ pumpkin (around 500g), peeled and cubed
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
200g couscous
250ml boiling water
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
handful of raisins
handful of walnut halves
handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof dish on the hob. Add the crushed garlic, onion, raisins and pumpkin and fry until they are slightly browned. Add the spices and walnut halves and cook for a further 2 mins, stirring frequently. Remove from hob.

Preheat the oven to 220°C and roast uncovered for about 15 mins until the pumpkin is tender.

Add the couscous and butter to a heatproof bowl; pour in the 250ml of boiling water. Cover and stand until the water is absorbed, fluffing with fork occasionally to separate the grains (usually takes about 5 mins). Add the pumpkin mixture to the couscous and stir in the parsley.

Wine Pairing

White wines, especially Sparkling Wines , pair well with spicy food but a Bordeaux Rosé such as Chateau Ballan Larquette Rosé or Chateau Lamothe Vincent Rosé would be great with the succulent roast lamb. Both are smooth, well rounded and have depth of body. Both have a little note of citrus and good acidity which will counter the richness of the dish.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sancet, Cotes de Gascogne

Butternut Squash is lovely roasted or puréed into Autumn soups but it can also be used in casseroles, breads, muffins and risottos. We have grown it in the Kitchen Garden but ours developed into a monster plant sending its tendrils everywhere! I do like the taste of Butternut Squash, it has a sweet, nutty flavour with a hint of muskiness. When it's ripe it has a gorgeous orange flesh.

Squashes originate from the Americas. The Spanish Conquistadores found the Incas cultivating it in the 15th century and brought it back to the Old World on return from their voyages of discovery. You'd think that they acquired their name from their 'squashy flesh' but the word actually comes from the Massachuset Indian word askutasquash, meaning "eaten raw or uncooked."

The squash was grown by the native American Indians as one of the Three Sisters - beans and corn completed the trio. Whole communities could survive on these alone if game and other foods were scarce. They were also one of the first Companion Plantings, each contributing to the growth and well-being of the others. The corn supplied support for the beans to climb on, and shade for the squash plants during the heat of the day. The squash plants large leaves shaded the ground, prevented weeds, and deterred hungry wildlife that didn’t like to walk through the fuzzy vines. The beans fixed nitrogen in the soil to feed the corn and the squash.

I have a great Risotto recipe using Butternut Squash to share with you that's perfect for Autumn.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 big butternut squash (about 2lb in weight), peeled, seeded and chopped into small cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, sliced
250g arborio rice
450ml vegetable stock
handful of fresh basil, chopped
grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the butternut squash until it starts to soften and brown. Remove the squash. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and cook the leeks until tender. Add the arborio rice and a third of the vegetable stock and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Keep adding the remaining liquid until it has all been used up. Pop the squash back into the pan and cook till its heated through and creamy. Stir in the basil, parmesan and black pepper. Serve with a sliver of parmesan on top.

Wine Pairing

Butternut Squash Risotto is great with Sancet, Côtes de Gascogne – this is a wine made with Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.is beautifully balanced, bright, and refreshing with lush flavours of ripe pear, melon, guava, cucumber, apple and lemon. There is a light beeswax note which adds complexity, a hint of slight sweetness and a touch of minerality on the finish.


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Spice Up This Autumn – Rich Coconut Beef and Sparkling Wine

As Autumn starts to settle in and the temperature begins to drop I find myself thinking of warming foods such as curry. I have a good recipe for Rendang Daging (rich and spicy coconut beef) which is packed full of flavour from Malaysia. Malaysia has been a melting pot of different cultures over the centuries including Indian, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian and Portuguese, and Malay cuisine is where all these different influences and flavours meet and mingle.

Coconut milk adds a delicious smoothness to curries and Rendang Daging is traditionally prepared during festive and ceremonial occasions. Tamarind pulp is used in this dish and Tamarind is a fruit that is native to Malaysia. It adds a fragrant sourness to the dish and is actually an ingredient in Worcestershire Sauce!

Rich Coconut Beef (Rendang Daging)

½ cup of olive oil
3 cm cinnamon stick
2 cloves
4 star anise
2 cardamom pods
500g topside beef, cubed
1 cup coconut milk
2 tsp dried tamarind pulp (soaked in warm water for juice). Alternatively you can use tamarind paste which is more commonly available,
a splash of lime juice (or 2 kaffir lime leaves if you can get them)
pinch of turmeric
1 ½ tsp sugar
salt to taste
2 tbsp kerisik (grated coconut roasted in a slow oven until brown)

Spice paste

2 shallots
3 lemon grass
2 cloves of garlic
2cm of fresh ginger root
10 dried chillies, soaked in hot water

Chop the spice paste ingredients and then puree in a blender until fine, Heat the oil, add the spice paste, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom and fry for 5 mins.

Add the beef, coconut milk and tamarind juice. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until the meat is almost cooked, Add the lime juice, tumeric, kerisik, sugar and salt. Lower the heat and simmer (about 1 – 1 ½ hours) until the meat is really tender and the juices have dried up. Serve with rice.

Wine Matching

Sparkling wine can complement the exotic aromas and spices in Asian foods: it is refreshing and has a good level of acidity which creates a mouth watering effect. Too high an abv can add to the heat of the chillies so to avoid a burning sensation stick to a sparkling wine that is around 12% or below.

Comte de Ferrand Blanc de Blancs is a good choice at 11% abv. Made from Ugni Blanc grapes it's fresh, clean and has nicely balanced acidity. In the mouth it's bursting with soft fruits: white peach, quince and subtle hints of mandarin orange abd apricot. The bouquet is one of floral aromas such as magnolia and jasmine. It's delicious with spicy food!


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Elderberries, Wine and Sorbet

At this time of year elderberries are dangling in lacy fronds of black berries and they are great to use in cooking if you can beat the bird to it! Elderberries medicinal uses too – they are an excellent source of vitamin C and are rich in antioxidants. They are used to lower cholesterol and boost the immune system. Elderberries have been used to fight coughs, colds and flu for centuries; in fact Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.

The berries come from the Elder tree which was traditionally planted around Dairies and it was thought to keep the milk from 'turning'. Cheese cloths used in the Dairy were hung out to dry on Elder trees and the trees were also planted near Bakeries where loaves and cakes put out to cool under the leaves. (The elder leaves are a natural insecticide so they help to keep flies away).

In the 17th and 18th centuries elderberries were sometimes added to Claret – it was a common practice for London merchants to add colour to wine by blending in a little elderberry juice. If these were in short supply, the juices of the sloe, bullace, damson, mulberry and even beetroot were resorted to! Elderberries can make a good home made wine and in the North of England a drink called Ebulon was very popular which is a sort of ale. Nowadays elderberries are used in desserts, cakes, syrups, sauces and pickles and I have a lovely recipe for Elderberry Sorbet to share.

Elderberry Sorbet

1 ½ lb (680g) elderberries – removed from stalks (be careful not to include any bits of leaf)
100g caster sugar
½ lemon
120ml water
1 egg white

Place the sugar, elderberries and the juice of ½ lemon into a saucepan with 120ml water. Heat until the mixture boils. Allow to cool and then liquidise. Strain into a bowl through a fine sieve (I use a piece of muslin). Pour into a container and freeze until almost firm. Remove from the freezer, cut the mixture into chunks and whip in the egg white with a blender. Transfer back into the container and freeze once again until almost firm. Remove from freezer and blend once more until the sorbet is very smooth and then freeze again.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Plums, Passion and Pudding

Our Czar Plum tree is festooned with fruit this year and I have a fantastic crop of plums. Czar Plums are traditional culinary plums, a lovely blue / black colour and have yellow insides. They originated in Hertfordshire in 1871 thanks to one family's passion for fruit growing. The Rivers family came to Sawbridgeworth in 1725 and established a nursery there – it's said to be Britain's oldest Nursery and is still run today by volunteers.

Much of the River's family's business was providing plants and trees for great houses with estate gardens. Successive generations of the family introduced some familar plants we have in our gardens today - the standard rose being one of them. The family bred more than 75 new varieties of apple, peach, nectarine, plum, cherry, apricot and pear as well as publishing books on the topic. They developed the Conference Pear and went on to supply Charles Darwin with an almond and peach trees for his garden. The Czar Plum was raised from a cross between Prince Englebert and Rivers Early Prolific Plums. As the Russian Emperor was on a visit to the UK at the time the variety was named 'Czar' in his honour.

Although Plum jam is my favourite you can only make so much of it so I have been looking for alternative ways of using them up. Plums and chocolate go really well together, in the same way that black cherries and chocolate do (I'm thinking of Black Forest Gateau!). You can also use Plums to make cheesecakes, ice creams, tarts, mousse and to moisten cakes.

I've found a lovely Romanian recipe that uses Plum mousse in layers with chocolate cake
here but have opted to make a Plum Flummery. It's light and easy to make – just right for late Summer days.

Flummery is an old British pudding that was popular in the 17th – 19th centuries. They were traditionally made with oat meal and flummeries still use it today although gelatine has taken its place in many modern recipes.

Plum and Almond Flummery

500g (1 lb) plums, stoned and sliced
1 tbsp water
2 leaves of gelatin
120ml hot water
120g caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
120ml evaporated milk
couple of drops of almond essence
flaked almonds to garnish
sliced plums to garnish

Put the plums and a tbsp of water in a saucepan and simmer for 5 – 10 mins until they are soft. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Dissolve the gelatin in a cup of hot water and stir into the cooled plums. Add the sugar, lemon juice and almond essence. Stir well until the gelatin and sugar have dissolved. Chill the mixture in the fridge until it starts to thicken. Whip the evaporated milk in a bowl until thick and then fold into the plum mixture. Whip the mixture until it is fluffy and then chill for a few hours before serving. Garnish with plum slices and flaked almonds.

Recommended Wine:

A glass of pink fizz! Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir and is a pale salmon pink in colour with shades of rose petals. With a bouquet of red and black currants, cherry and quince this is a lovely wine. In the mouth it is expressive, well balanced and refreshing with a dense, very fine mousse lasting to the very last sip in the glass. It is a super aperitif but is also great with desserts!


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Three Great Kebab Recipes for Bank Holiday Barbecues

With the last Bank Holiday of the Summer fast approaching I thought it would be a good idea to share some great kebab recipes to spice up the barbecue! I have kept the core ingredients very simple so you can add to them – or even mix and match!

If you are using wooden skewers soak them in a bowl of water for around half an hour before using them on the barbecue.

Monkfish Mushroom and Smoked Bacon Kebabs

Monkfish are firm textured and meaty white fish so they won't fall to bits on the barbecue. We normally buy the tails from the shops and they have a flavour similar to lobster.

1kg monkfish tails, cut into cubes
250g rindless smoked bacon
150g small button mushrooms
6 to 8 skewers
olive oil for brushing

There are two ways you can prepare these kebabs: one is to wrap each cube of monkfish with a rasher of smoked bacon and then stick it on the skewer followed by a mushroom, alternating until the skewer is full. The other is to stretch a rasher of smoked bacon with the back of a knife and thread it on to a skewer, weaving it between cubes of monkfish and bacon.

Place the kebabs on a hot barbecue and cook for between 10 - 15 minutes, or until done through. As you turn the kebabs brush them with olive oil. Serve hot.

Recommended Wines: Try Bordeaux Rosés or Clairets – they pair beautifully with seafood, fish, hams, bacon, chorizo and salamis.

Steak and Halloumi Cheese Kebabs

Halloumi cheese comes from Cyprus and is brilliant for using on barbecues as it keeps its shape and doesn't melt into a mess all over the place. It's a little like Mozzarella in texture and you can find it in most supermarkets. It's made from goat's and sheep's milk and has a nice tangy flavour.

600g rump steak, cut into cubes
250g haloumi cheese, cut into cubes
olive oil for brushing

Season your cubes of rump steak and thread them on to the skewer, alternating with the Halloumi cheese. Brush the kebabs with olive oil and place on a hot barbecue. Cook for 2 minutes on each side. As you turn the kebabs brush them with olive oil. Serve hot.

Recommended Wines: Good Clarets go very well with steaks and strong cheeses so a Bordeaux red wine would be perfect.

Lamb and Mango Kebabs

Mangoes are delicious when barbecued (you can cook them separately as a dessert if you like – just cut them in half and coat them with honey so that they caramelise on contact with the barbecue). When making Lamb and Mango Kebabs make sure you cut the mango into quite large cubes as they will soften and shrink on the barbecue (smaller pieces are prone to fall off).

450g lamb, cut into cubes
60ml hoisin sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large mangoes

Marinade the cubes of lamb in the hoisin sauce, light soy sauce, vinegar and oil overnight in the fridge. Thread the skewers with alternating cubes of lamb and mango. Place on a hot barbecue and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Serve hot.

Recommended Wines: There are a couple of choices here – Sparkling Wine is great with Chinese cuisine and copes with the sweet/sour flavours. Alternatively if you prefer an off-dry, slightly sweet white wine try a Bordeaux Moelleux as they are excellent food wines that marry up with Asian cuisine remarkably well.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Chicory, Camp Coffee and Sauternes

My wild chicory plant in the kitchen garden has loved the hot summer weather this year and each morning it is festooned with sky blue flowers. Sadly they don't last long as by the evening they are over but I am treated to another great show the following morning. I decided to grow it from seed having seen it flourishing by the roadside and I loved the pretty flowers. It's a big plant, well over a metre tall and next year I'll try using the spring leaves in cooking. They taste a little bitter but apparently when cooked you can use them like spinach.

I have grown cultivated Chicory as a vegetable (Radicchio, Sugarloaf and Belgian Endive are all types of chicory) but I've never tried growing Root Chicory before. This is the variety that's used as a coffee substitute. I have nostalgic memories of 'Camp' from when I was younger. Camp Chicory and Coffee Essence originated in Scotland and was produced in 1876 by Paterson & Sons Ltd. I like the taste - roasted Chicory root has a sweeter aroma, sort of like caramel or chocolate.

Chicory has been used as a coffee substitute for 2 centuries. It seems it was first roasted in Holland around 1750 and in a short period of time it became a replacement for coffee. In 1766 Frederick the Great banned the imports of coffee into Prussia hoping to bolster sagging beer sales. An innkeeper developed a chicory substitute and manufactured it in Brunswick and Berlin. By 1795 there were up to 24 factories producing it.

France adopted the practice and in 1806 when Napoleon attempted to make France totally self sufficient chicory replaced coffee there entirely for a while. Today Leroux is Europe's largest chicory producer. Established in France in 1858 it processes 125,000 metric tons of chicory root in Orchies, near the border with Belgium. Their website has some lovely recipes using roasted chicory

Roasted Chicory root is also used to add flavour to beers and stouts and there are even a few recipes for making home made liqueurs and wines from it (especially in France). The only commercial Chicory liqueur I know of is produced in Mississippi by the Bottle Tree Beverage Co and is made at Cathead Distillery. It's called
Hoodoo and was launched last year.

I love coffee ice cream and have a recipe that is really delicious. I use Camp in it but you can use liquid Chicory essence if you prefer.

Chicory Coffee Ice Cream

4 eggs, separated
100g fine brown sugar
300ml double cream
3 tbsp Camp Coffee (or liquid Chicory essence)
2 tbsp brandy

Add the egg yolks and brown sugar to a bowl and beat until thick. In a separate bowl whip the double cream and add the Camp Coffee (or liquid Chicory essence) and brandy when the mixture begins to thicken. Continue to whip until stiff. Fold the egg yolks and sugar mixture into the whipped cream.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the stiffened egg whites into the egg yolk/cream/ chicory mixture.

Spoon into a container, cover with lid and freeze for 4 – 6 hours until it is firm.

Try serving it with a chilled Sauternes – Baron Philippe Rothschild famously used to serve his Sauternes (a bottle of First Growth Chateau d'Yquem no less) so cold at the end of the meal that it was nearly frozen. It's said that at his chateau, Mouton Rothschild, the d'Yquem used to arrive at table encased in a block of ice which absolutely infuriated the Marquis de Lur Saluces the owner of d'Yquem! Admittedly this is extreme and served this cold you would lose some of its fragrance and flavour but served chilled between 10 – 12ºC Sauternes is lovely with desserts.