Archive for the ‘Homemade and preserves’ Category

Cheat’s potted crab

7 April 2014

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I’ve been dreaming of potted crab since last October, when we left London for a few days during the fall vacation and drove South, on a pilgrimage of sorts, to places I’d often been as a child. We drove toward the sea through the meandering countryside, over detours of Ashdown Forest to my old school, our old house. In Brighton I couldn’t recall the fish and chips shop we always stopped at, though I remember the soggy chips, the flaky fish, the newspaper package sticky with vinegar and sea air, the grinding stones underfoot. The shop probably doesn’t exist anymore anyway.

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Later we walked across the Seven Sisters, but in between we stayed in what must indeed be one of the prettiest villages in Sussex. In that village there was a pub. And in that pub there was potted crab. I ordered it only once, but each subsequent night I bit my lips at not having asked for it again. It was the best thing they served, or rather, it was just plain great, without qualifiers.

Potted crab is characteristic of the kind of British food that I love. It is simple, traditional, and, at its best, stellar. It’s ideal pub fare, picnic food, and perfect for an apéro.

‘Potting’ is a preservation technique, that derives from medieval pies. Meats and fish were initially baked in crusts as a means of conservation (apparently a fairly coarse crust, not intended as part of the delicacy). Once cooked, the pocket of air left between the filling and crust was filled with a sealing layer of fat poured through a hole in the crust. Later, crusts were dispensed of completely by using reusable pots.

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Since that crab in the pub in the village in Sussex I’ve wanted to make it. It has taken me all these months and a split-second, spur-of-the-moment decision to make it. I cheated because I bought the crab meat. I have a very good fishmonger close by and as I mentioned, it was a last minute decision. Still, it was very good.

Cheat’s potted crab

250g butter

300g cooked crab meat

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

Pinch sea salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

Chives

Melt the the butter slowly in a small saucepan.

Place the crab meat in a medium sized bowl, add the lemon zest and juice, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour most of the melted butter into the crab meat, reserving about one quarter. Mix well.

Transfer the crab mixture to a bowl or glass terrine without packing it too much, smooth over the top. Coarsely cut a small handfull of chives over the crab and pour the remaining melted butter to seal. Keep in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 2 to 3 days.

Remove from the refrigerator about half an hour before using and serve with delicious bread.

It’s that easy!

Christmas cookies | Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars)

22 December 2013

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Maybe I wasn’t being completely truthful last year when I exclaimed that the almond and currant cookies of my youth are my favorite. In reality I’ve always loved Zimtsterne most of all.

As a little girl cinnamon stars represented the very promise of Christmas. The sweet tinge of icing an irresistible finish to the chewy bite. Nutty. Not too cinnamony. For some years I may have snubbed them a little, perhaps in a flaccid effort at emancipation from too obvious a childhood treat. But why resist the irresistible?

This is another recipe my mother has kept alive all these years. She received it initially, many years ago, from Marcelle, a close family friend and my grandparent’s neighbor in Switzerland.

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Marcelle’s Zimtsterne
The cookies must rest for a few hours or overnight before baking, so plan accordingly. They are best made a few weeks ahead. (Ahem.
)
Store in an airtight tin box, separating the layers with parchment paper.

450 g (3 cups) almonds

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

300 g (1 1/2 cups) unrefined sugar

2 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon

Kirsch (1 Tbsp for cookies and 1 Tbsp for the icing)

Star-shaped cookie cutter

100 g (3/4 cup) powdered (icing) sugar

Pulse chop the almonds in a food processor until they reach the consistency of coarse sugar. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until very firm.

Add the sugar, cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon kirsch to the almonds. Fold in the egg whites with a wooden spoon, then knead by hand until the dough holds together (kneading will help extract the almond oil).

Take the dough and flatten it evenly on a slightly moistened wooden board (working in batches if necessary). The height should be approximately 8 mm (1/3 inch), but the most important is that it be even so it also cooks evenly.

Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with sugar. Cut out stars from the dough with a wet cookie cutter and place them on the baking sheet. (Wet the cutter repeatedly throughout the process to avoid sticking.)

Let the stars rest, uncovered (they must dry a little), at room temperature, for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Slide the sheet in the middle of the oven and bake the cookies for 10 minutes. They will harden when they cool but must remain moist.

Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with 1 tablespoon Kirsch and 1 tablespoon water. The icing should be quite liquid, add water drop by drop if necessary.

Using the back of a small spoon, coat each star, while still warm, with a light layer of icing. Let dry.

Store in a tin box, layers separated by parchment paper, for up to a month.

Merry Christmas!

Quince fruit pastes (pâtes de fruit)

27 November 2013

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The truth of the matter is, rather than preparing for a blasphemously belated Thanksgiving on Saturday, for which most of my family is crossing the channel, I have been roasting quinces and simmering chutney.

Last week, friends unexpectedly brought me a big bag of quinces from their garden in the Cotswolds (I hear it is more of an orchard). I was quite excited and may possibly have briefly jumped up and down at the sight. It was a very busy week, and I was away this weekend — the quinces were becoming impatient. Quinces do hold out for a while but I wasn’t willing to tempt fate for too long, so last night I made chutney. As a first test improvised from a few recipes it is quite good, but I am not entirely happy enough to report the results here — yet. In any event, Thomas managed to save the last of the quinces from their chutney fate, begging that I make quince paste, too.

What he doesn’t know is that in the course of the morning, half of the membrillo has been transmogrified into my absolute favorite sweet: pâtes de fruit.

The preparation is the same up to the point of cutting the paste into dice or rectangles and coating them with sugar.

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Quince cheese recipe dapted from the River Café Cookbook (Blue)

Quinces

Sugar

Lemon

Preheat oven to 300ºF (150ºC).

Rub the fuzz from the quinces and wash well under cold water. Cut the quinces in half and place them face down in an ovenproof dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the quinces feel quite soft when poked with a knife (probably 1 1/2 to 2 hours).

While the quinces are still warm, pass them through the fine mesh of a vegetable mill. (To insure a very pure paste, first remove the quinces’ core).

(The quince purée can at this point be refrigerated overnight.)

Weigh the purée, place in a saucepan, and add an equal amount of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per 100g of quince.

Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the paste has darkened and begins to fall off the sides. This will take a good long while, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, so take a book, newspaper, or magazine close to the stove but DO NOT leave. (I happen to know that left unattended, the paste will burn very quickly. In which case transfer quickly to another saucepan and continue cooking.)

Once the paste has reached a dark, heavy consistency, spread on a plate to cool. Once cool, cut into the desired shapes and roll in some sugar. The pastes should keep for a few weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Mackerel rillettes

15 May 2013

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Sometimes food happens without much forethought or planning. I could have pondered it for weeks, in fact I’ve been wanting to make these for years, but when I bought mackerel fillets at the market last week I had no plan; a quick weeknight dinner at best. Rillettes were far from my thoughts, lurking behind the distant corner of a hazy summer memory. But as I contemplated dinner for friends and something that could easily be made ahead, I found myself searching for mackerel rillettes recipes.

So this is adapted from one by Annie Bell, modified to suit what I had on hand. It was delicious.

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Recipe adapted from Mackerel Rillettes by Annie Bell

8 small mackerel fillets

2 bay leaves

2 stems fresh garlic (or 3 garlic cloves)

Few sprigs fresh thyme

100 ml dry white wine

100 ml water

1 lemon

3 Tbsps very good olive oil

Fleur de sel or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the mackerel fillets flat at the bottom of a pan, add the bay leaves, garlic, thyme, wine, and water. Bring to a gentle boil, simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. As soon as the liquid is cool enough, take out the fillets and flake the fish, taking care to remove any remaining bones.

Place the cooking liquid back onto the stove, cook for a few minutes until ireduced to a couple of tablespoons.

In a medium bowl, combine the mackerel gently with the reduced liquid, the juice from 1/2 lemon (the other half for serving), and 3 Tbsps very good olive oil. Season with fleur de sel or sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Transfer to a serving bowl or jar and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 2 days.

Serve with bread and butter, and a generous squeeze of lemon.

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Related posts

Baked mackerel with mustard and thyme

Pork rillettes

 

Candied orange and lemon peel

8 December 2012

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For years I’ve wanted to do this. Every time, as I gather all the ingredients to make Stollen in early December, I think I really should make candied citrus peel myself. But caught in the rush I end up scrambling and scouring stores desperately to find an acceptable option — usually just barely.

So I’m quite excited. It’s not as if I’d suddenly been graced with lots more time, rather to the contrary, but I guess that’s how it works.

It does take time — a few hours. Peeling, cutting, staying close to the boil. Repeating. It’s time-consuming. But simple. It’s meditative. And worth it.

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Orange peel

I candied the peel to use in Stollen, but there is plenty left over, which can be eaten as is, rolled in sugar, or dipped in dark melted chocolate to make orangettes. Mmmm.

5 oranges

3 cups (600 g) sugar

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water (more for the first step)

To peel the oranges, trim off a ‘cap’ at either end so the orange sits in a stable position. Cut pieces of peel, equal to approximately a sixth of the fruit, from top to the bottom, including the pith and a bit of fruit. (The flesh can be used elsewhere for example in a fruit salad.) Slice the pieces of peel into strips 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2 cm) wide.
Place the peel in a smallish saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Cover the peel with fresh water and repeat this three times (4 boils altogether).

Rinse the saucepan. Pour the sugar and 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water, bring to a boil, then add the peel. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, removing scum if it occurs, until the peel is soft and translucent on the sides. (The pith should be translucent too.)

Place the pieces of peel on a rack or baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let dry for 24 to 36 hours.

Keep the syrup in the fridge and mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, or drizzled over plain yogurt.

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Lemon peel
(Same technique but the quantities are halved, and lemon peel can also be dipped in dark chocolate to make ‘lemonettes’!)

5 lemons

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

3/4 cup (200 ml) water (more for the first step)

To peel the lemons, trim off a ‘cap’ at either end so the orange sits in a stable position. Cut pieces of peel, equal to approximately a sixth of the fruit, from top to the bottom, including the pith and a bit of fruit. (The flesh can be used elsewhere for example in a fruit salad.) Slice the pieces of peel into strips 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2 cm) wide.

Place the peel in a smallish saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Cover the peel with fresh water and repeat this three times (4 boils altogether).

Rinse the saucepan. Pour the sugar and 3/4 cup (200 ml) water, bring to a boil, then add the peel. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, removing scum if it occurs, until the peel is soft and translucent on the sides. (The pith should not be white anymore, completely translucent.)

Place the peels on a rack or baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let dry for 24 to 36 hours.

Keep the syrup in the fridge and mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, or drizzled over plain yogurt.

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Related posts

Stollen


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