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.