Mardi Gras Jambalaya

jambalaya

jambalaya

March 4th, 2014

Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday and  Pancake Day is an annual Christian feast day, relative to fasting for lent, which starts the next day, Ash Wednesday.

To celebrate Mardi Gras, I had originally intended to make savoury and sweet pancakes for a group of friends but while I was thinking about savoury fillings, it occurred to me that it might be more fun to cook a Jambalaya as the main course and follow it with sugar and lemon pancakes – Jambalaya being something traditional that would be eaten on Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Jambalaya typically contains meat, sausage, seafood, vegetables and rice. It’s said to have originated in and around New Orleans and is perhaps a New World paella combining French, Spanish and African cuisine. There are two main types, a Creole Jambalaya would contain tomatoes and be specific to New Orleans, whereas a Cajun Jambalaya would be made without tomatoes and often contain game meat such as alligator, duck, nutria, venison, etc. Cajun cuisine is common to the rural population of Louisiana, outside of New Orleans and of French Arcadian decent. Both Cajun and Creole styles of cooking would use a trinity of bell pepper, celery and onion as key ingredients.  The word Jambalaya comes from the Provençal jambalaia - a mixture, combination and also a pilau of rice .

Creole style Jambalaya recipe (serves 6): 

1 lb diced chicken meat
1 andouille (spicy smoked pork sausage), or in Europe, a hot chorizo ring is a reasonable substitute (sliced)
1/2 lb large raw prawns
1 large onion (chopped)
2 sticks celery (chopped)
2 medium bell peppers (chopped)
1 fresh chilli pepper (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
6 or 7 medium sized tomatoes (blanched, peeled and chopped) or 1 can
a sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
a small bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 lb paella or risotto rice – long grain rice would be used in America
1 pint of home made chicken stock
Extra virgin olive oil (as required)
a splash of balsamic vinegar
Cajun seasoning (to taste): 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 2 teaspoons pimentón mixed together
1 teaspoon of hot smoked pimentón

Chicken marinade:

6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning
2 teaspoons of hot smoked pimentón
a large pinch of dried crushed chilli
a large glug of olive oil

I bought a medium sized chicken, cut the meat off and then cooked the carcass with vegetables in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes to make the chicken stock.

Put the diced raw chicken into a plastic bag or container and mix thoroughly with the chicken marinade. Refrigerate for 24 hours before using.

When ready to cook the main dish, fry the sausage in olive oil until it browns a little. Remove from the pan and fry the onions, adding the celery, garlic and peppers after the onions have become translucent. Cook the chicken and marinade in with the vegetables until it has taken some colour. Return the sausage to the pan, along with the tomato, thyme and bay leaves. Cover and cook gently for 15 minutes or so.

Taste the Jambalaya and adjust the flavour with more Cajun seasoning, pimentón, etc. and add a splash of Balsamic vinegar. Stir in the rice and allow it to cook for a couple of minutes before pouring in some warmed chicken stock. Don’t add all the stock at once, but instead pour some in every ten minutes or so and stir the dish to stop the rice sticking to the bottom (do keep the heat on low and the pan covered). Add the raw prawns about ten minutes after the rice goes in, prawns don’t need to cook for too long or they become rubbery. Rice varieties have different cooking times, so use the time on the packet for guidance and be prepared for it to take an hour, since the rice is being cooked gently as opposed to boiling. This can be cooked on low in the oven if the pan has a lid – that way there will be no food burnt on the bottom.

When the rice is tender sprinkle chopped coriander or parsley on the top and serve.

salad

salad

Audrey made a mixed leaf salad, with radishes, celery, kohlrabi and walnuts.

allioli

allioli

As I’m partial to allioli with paella and fideua it seemed fitting to make some to go with Jambalaya.

Six of us wolfed down the Jambalaya as if there were no tomorrow before taking it in turns to toss pancakes for pudding. Miraculously none ended up on the floor or ceiling. Pancake recipe here.

Rather a large quantity of alcohol was consumed – as Jambalaya is a hearty, spicy dish I recommend a robust red wine such as Carta Roja, Jumilla.

I will of course be fasting for the duration of lent …not!

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Slider

slider

slider

January 10th, 2014

I can remember going on a solo bus trip age 10, to Talley Ho Corner where I bought my first LP, The Slider by T-Rex. Fast forward many years and I’ve come across two more sliders - small burgers and my new personal favourite, sloe gin cider.

sloes

sloes

I often make sloe gin during the autumn, which is ready to drink by Christmas. It’s a great winter warmer when the weather goes south. A demijohn (gallon jar) half full of sloes can produce two lots of gin (about 9 bottles), but at the end of it one is left with a lot of gin soaked berries. I’ve seen suggestions for eating these sloes with ice cream or even chocolate coating them, but having tasted a few I’ve found that they are still quite bitter and not pleasant at all.

sloe gin cider

sloe gin cider

Last September, around the time that I was bottling my second batch of gin, I found an article suggesting that the gin soaked sloes could be given a second lease of life by adding cider to them. As cider is relatively cheap this seemed like a good experiment…

the southampton arms

the southampton arms

I went to the Southampton Arms to buy my cider. It’s conveniently just a couple of streets away from my home and is probably, “The only dedicated ale and cider house in London to sell only beers and ciders from small independent UK breweries.”

legbender

legbender

The pub staff are exceptionally helpful here – they let you taste all the drinks before you order and handily sell takeaway cider by the flagon! As sugar had previously been added to the sloes and gin, I chose a very dry cider – Legbender from Rich’s Farmhouse Cider of Sommerset, with an ABV of 6%.

sloe gin cider

sloe gin cider

The cider should be poured gently over the sloes – splashing it around oxygenates the drink and apparently that should be kept to a minimum – oxygen can kill the Slider over time or adversely affect the flavour. I needed about 6 pints of cider to cover the sloes.

airlock

airlock

An airlock should be used to allow any gas to be released – there is likely to be a chemical reaction with any sugar left from the sloe gin and potentially a secondary fermentation in the cider. The airlock allows gas to escape without letting any bacteria or insects in.  The Slider should be left in a dark room or cupboard for a month or so.

I had intended to drink the Slider in October or November, but somehow didn’t get round to it. This week I invited Audrey round for the opening of the demijohn and I was slightly anxious that it might have turned to vinegar. I needn’t have worried, there was a distinct and pleasant cider smell when I removed the cork.

Our verdict: The Slider was exceptionally good. The gin soaked sloes had mellowed the tart cider, giving it a hint of sloe gin and it had a distinct taste of almonds (from the stone of the sloe), apples and cherries. The drink had a lovely clear rose hip colour and only needed filtering towards the bottom of the demijohn. I will definitely be making this again!

When making your own Slider I recommend that you use a good quality traditional cider and not the commercial rubbish found in most pubs and supermarkets. There are stalls in farmers’ markets selling the real thing. It’s worth noting that some people use their sloes once again (after the cider) and add sherry to them – I haven’t gone that far yet…

I noticed online, that one can buy a commercial Slider, which costs around £12 per half bottle.

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Run Rudolph Run

RunRudolfRun

 

…with a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Posted in Game | 29 Comments

Pheasant Curry

poaching pheasant

poaching pheasant

December 8th, 2013

As pheasant is cheap and easily available in Britain at this time of year, I though it was about time that I made a pheasant curry.

First of all, the pheasant needs to be poached with vegetables to produce a stock – this also makes it easy to remove the meat.

Pheasant Stock:

1 large pheasant (plucked)
1 large onion (peeled)
4 small carrots
2 sticks of celery
2 leak tops
6 pieces of garlic (peeled)
a sprig of rosemary, sage and thyme
2 bay leaves
6 juniper berries (whole)
a pinch of sea salt and a few black peppercorns (8 or so)
olive oil
1 1/2 pints of water

poached pheasant

poached pheasant

Put the pheasant, herbs, 1 whole onion (peeled), carrots, celery, 2 leak tops, 6 pieces of garlic, the herbs, juniper, a pinch of sea salt and peppercorns into a cast iron casserole, along with the water. Heat your oven to 100º C, while you bring the water in the casserole to almost boiling. Skim off any froth or scum on top of the water, place the lid on the casserole and put it in the oven for one and a half hours. Do turn the pheasant over half way through. When done, remove the pheasant, allow it to cool, strain and reserve the stock. When the pheasant is cool, remove and chop all the meat – discard the bones.

Pheasant Curry recipe (serves 4):

The meat of 1 large pheasant (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
2 small carrots (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
1 small cauliflower (discard the leaves and break up the white flowery part)
5 – 6 large tomatoes, blanched and skin removed (or a tin of plum peeled tomatoes)
2 desert spoons of tomato purée
a small squirt of anchovy paste
half a dessertspoonful of flour
a splash of red wine
1 big slug of olive oil or some ghee
1 pint of pheasant stock

Curry Paste:
1 desert spoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of turmeric seeds
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
a little ground fenugreek
a few black pepper seeds
1/4 teaspoon of mustard seed
1 splash of red wine vinegar

Make the paste first, by warming a frying pan and adding the coriander, turmeric and cumin seeds. When they start to smell aromatic, turn the heat off and put them in a mortar. The warming process will help them to release more flavour during cooking, but be carful not to burn them or you will spoil the taste.

Grind up all the curry paste ingredients with a mortar and pestle and then drizzle in the red wine vinegar until you have a thick paste.

mirepoix

mirepoix

In a large cast iron casserole, start cooking by browning the onion in olive oil (or ghee if you have some). Once the onion has taken some colour, stir in the carrots, celery and garlic. Coat the vegetables completely in oil before stirring in the paste and half a dessertspoonful of flour.

vegetables and spices

vegetables and spices

Next add the tomatoes (an easy way of crushing up the tomatoes is by using a potato masher). Squeeze in the tomato purée and anchovy paste then pour in a little red wine. Keep stirring and allow the sauce to come to simmer before tasting.

pheasant meat

pheasant meat

Put the pheasant meat into the curry sauce – stir in and pour on some pheasant stock (probably about half a pint to start with).

pheasant curry

pheasant curry

The curry should be reasonably thick, with a stew like consistency. More stock can be added to the dish as needed. Bring the pot to the boil, put the lid on and cook in a preheated oven at 100º C for 1 and 1/2 hours.

pheasant curry with cauliflower

pheasant curry with cauliflower

I added the flourettes from a small cauliflower during the last half hour. If they are cooked for much longer than 30 minutes they go a bit soggy.

Do taste the curry before serving with basmati rice and poppadoms. Adjust the flavour with wine, vinegar, anchovy and or tomato paste if necessary. I’m quite partial to some lime pickle on the side too.

Drink Cobra beer or a robust red wine, such as Cantina di Casteggio from Oltrepó Pavese.

More Pheasant Recipes

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Jugged Hare

here hare here

here hare here

December 1st, 2013

Here hare here.”

A note from Jake the Poacher – Withnail and I (1987)

I bought a 5 lb hare for £7.50 from the Pheasant Girl on the Marney Lamb stall at Islington Farmers’ Market last Sunday. I first noticed them for sale about 4 weeks ago and hesitated two weeks in a row – then the following 2 weeks they’d sold out before I even got there! Luckily, this week I had one saved for me and it was a big one – so definitely worth waiting for.

hare and pheasants

hare and pheasants

It’s likely that the European Brown Hare was introduced to Britain by the Romans or an earlier civilisation, because they probably wouldn’t have spread to northern Europe before Britain was separated by the sea. Unlike rabbits, hares live above ground and nest in hollows called forms. In general the hare is a shy and nocturnal animal, but during the spring mating season, males box each other in broad daylight, in competition for a mate.

Jugged Hare is quite a traditional method of cooking hare (across Europe), where the meat is marinated for several days in wine and vinegar before long slow cooking. The hare’s blood is used to thicken the sauce at the end of the cooking process. In Britain the meat was cooked in a jug, placed in a bain-marie, so that it could be cooked for a long time over a flame without burning. The same can be achieved by cooking with a cast iron casserole in the oven set on a low heat.

Jugged Hare Recipe (feeds 4 people):

Marinade:

1 large onion (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (chopped)
1 bouquet garni
1 bottle of red wine
1 cup of red wine vinegar
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
the juice of a lemon

Cooking Recipe:

1 large onion (chopped)
2 large carrots (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (chopped)
4 oz lardons
the hare’s blood
red wine and red wine vinegar as required
half a pint of pheasant stock (or chicken stock)
ground sea salt, black peppercorns, rosemary, sage and thyme
2 bay leaves
6 ground juniper berries
3 heaped dessertspoons of flour
quarter of a teaspoon of mustard powder
2 dessertspoons of extra virgin olive oil

hare marinade

hare marinade

Put the marinade ingredients into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes and allow to cool. In the meantime, joint the hare – cut the legs off and chop the body into 2 or 3 pieces to make it manageable. When the marinade is cold, pour it over the hare. I recommend putting it into a large freezer bag, so it can be moved around during the marination for an even soaking. Put the marinating hare into the fridge for between 36 and 48 hours. Turn the bag every 12 hours. Make sure that the heart, liver and kidneys go into the marinade and get cooked with the hare – it all adds to the flavour.

Keep the hare’s blood to thicken the sauce at the end. Stir in some red wine vinegar to stop it coagulating and refrigerate.

hare browning

hare browning

When you are ready to cook the hare, remove the meat from the marinade and coat it with flour, seasoned with a little mustard powder. Put the marinade through a sieve and reserve the liquid. Using a large casserole, lightly brown the pieces of meat in olive oil – fry a few bits at a time and don’t overcrowd the pan. When the meat is browned, deglaze the pan with a little red wine and red wine vinegar – keep the deglazing liquid.

lardons

lardons

Brown some lardons in the casserole – mine came from a piece of Spanish cured bellota pork belly, but some bacon would do.

mirepoix

mirepoix

Add and gently fry some onions, followed by the carrots, celery and garlic.

When the vegetables have softened slightly, stir in the ground herbs, the juniper berries and add the bay leaves.

juniper berries

juniper berries

Juniper is the main aromatic flavour used in gin making – a few berries go well with all game, but don’t over do it. Place the browned meat on top of the vegetables and pour on the marinade liquid plus the red wine and vinegar from deglazing the pan and the stock. This should just cover the meat, but add a drop of red wine if necessary. Bring to the boil and put the lid on before placing in a preheated oven at a temperature of 100º C for three and half hours.

slow cooking

slow cooking

Do move the meat around gently every hour and remove any oil or scum that comes to the surface. Taste the sauce after an hour or so, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. I found that it needed very little adjustment, but do follow your taste buds.

blood

blood

After three and a  half hours, remove the meat to a dish and keep it warm.

thickening with blood

thickening with blood

Stir the hare’s blood into the sauce to thicken it.

jugged hare

jugged hare

Rejoin the meat and sauce before serving with seasonal vegetables. I think mashed potato is definitely in order along with brussels sprouts or cauliflower.

I thoroughly recommend jugged hare – like a rabbit stew but much tastier – the deluxe version perhaps. I got excited when I opened up the marinade – it smelled amazing before I’d even cooked it!

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Prickly Pear

opuntia ficus-indica

opuntia ficus-indica

November 17th, 2013

When I went to stay in Barcelona last October, I had a long list of things that I wanted to cook or eat. One of those items was the the Prickly Pear, which Chica Andaluza had mentioned recently. I’d never tried a Prickly Pear and remembering Baloo’s song, The Bare Necessities from Jungle Book, I’d always assumed they came from India. Not so, the Opunti Cactus comes from the Americas and was introduced to Europe (around the Mediterranean) after Columbus discovered America and later, in the 18th Century, to India.  The origin of the wild Opuntia Ficus-Indica is likely to be Mexico and the Prickly Pear is the brightly coloured fruit of the cactus, which can be peeled and eaten.

opuntia crema

opuntia crema

I arrived in Barcelona in the evening and we went out for dinner at one of my favourite places, Romesco. We ate a lot and then went to Iposa for coffee and a glass of rosado. It was supposed to be a glass, but they suggested we have a bottle and take it home if we didn’t finish it… we did and another glass each. When we got back to Oli’s apartment he suggested a night cap of the Opuntia Crema (cactus liqueur) he had in the fridge. It was thick, fruity and ever so slightly cloudy – a bit like a sweet aloe vera.

cactus liquor

cactus liqueur

Just one glass of course – ha ha, no, half the bottle!

cactus fig

cactus fig

Anyway, a couple of days later I looked all round the Boqueria for Prickly Pears without much success,

vidal pons

vidal pons

but I did come across some Higos Chumbos on the Vidal Pons stall, which looked like the fruit of a cactus. Stupidly I’d neglected to look up the Spanish name for Prickly Pear before going shopping and the Higos Chumbos were expensive, so I thought I’d go home, look it up and come back the next day.

fruits micó

fruits micó

When I went back to the Boqueria, Vidal Pons no longer had Higos Chumbos, which turned out to be exactly what I’d been looking for. Undeterred, I scoured all the stalls and got very lucky.

higos chumbos

higos chumbos

Fruits Micó had some much better looking Higos Chumbos for half the price! I didn’t hesitate this time.

opuntia

opuntia

Walking back to Oli’s with my purchase I realised that the cactus liqueur we’d been drinking several nights perviously was made with Prickly Pear and there were even Opunti cacti growing on the roof! The thing that had thrown me all along was the translation of the Spanish name, Higos Chumbos – fig pears.

peeling prickly pear

peeling prickly pear

Take great care when handling Prickly Pears - if you buy them the big cactus thorns will have been removed. If not, handle with thick gloves and rub the outsides hard to get rid of the spikes. The fruit can be peeled with a knife, but even after removing the big thorns, there will still be some fine hair like spikes (they are almost invisible) which easily get into your skin. Be careful and if in doubt hold the fruit in a towel while peeling. I peeled two and had a few tiny little thorns in my hand – they took a couple of days to work their way out too!

peeled prickly pear

peeled prickly pear

Once peeled, the fruit tastes delicious – a bit like watermelon combined with kiwi and raspberry. Prickly Pears contain large black pips – these can be treated like apple pips – spit them out. I was told that the orange coloured fruit is ripest and best tasting – this did seem to be the case.

When I got back to London, to my surprise, the greengrocer across the street was selling Prickly Pears for the same price as those in Barcelona, however, I’m sure they weren’t as fresh, since they grow lots of them in the South of Spain.

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Topik

topic

topik

October 8th 2013

I had lunch at Topik today with Oli, in the Eixample district, just above Universitat.
Owner Adelf Morales is one of the new generation of Catalan chefs who served his apprenticeship in St. Sebastian, Valencia, Milan and Osaka, before returning home to open his own restaurant. Adelf’s style is particularly influenced by Basque, Catalan, Italian and Japanese food.

menu de migdia

menu de migdia

In spite of being an upmarket restaurant, Topik continues the Spanish tradition of a cheap mid day menu, so you don’t have to be rich to eat here. There were a few price supplements on the menu, but the food was stunning.

arros de conill, camagrocs i gambes

arros de conill, camagrocs i gambes

I ordered Arros de Conill, Camagrocs i Gambes – rabbit rice with prawns and yellow foot mushrooms. I couldn’t resist this one, the rice was wonderfully savoury, made with rabbit or chicken stock and containing prawns and mushrooms. That’s a rabbit leg doing a Can-can on top.

terrina de peus de porc

terrina de peus de porc

Oli had a Terrina de Peus de Porcpig trotter terrine. I nearly ordered this myself, but I did get a taste and it was unctuous, as Fergus Henderson would say.

kokotxes de bacallà al pil-pil

kokotxes de bacallà al pil-pil

I had an amazing main course, Kokotxes de Bacallà al Pil-pilcod throat pil-pil. Bacalao pil-pil is a traditional Basque dish, where cod is cooked with garlic in olive oil – if you can master this dish it’s considered to be a sign that you are a good cook. The oil should thicken and become a sauce during cooking, the garlic helps in this as it contains a natural emulsifier, along with gelatine in the cod. Pil-pil is the sound of something bubbling while cooking. These days cod and hake throat are considered to be a delicacy and fetch a very high price (more than the fish itself), but traditionally fishermen were poor, so they sold the fish and kept the heads and throats for themselves. The dish was absolutely delicious.

steak tartare

steak tartare

Oli ordered an excellent Steak Tartare - yes I got to try that one too!

tatin de poma

tatin de poma

Pudding was quite French – mine was a crispy, Tartin de Poma – tarte tatin, served pastry side up.

flan casolà

flan casolà

Oli chose a Flan Casolàhome made flan with cream.

We had a fabulous lunch and were served by Adelf Morales and his partner Eva Melé, which makes a big difference to some star chefs in England who don’t even cook in their restaurants. Topik was cosy and fairly full, service was excellent and we loved the food. The menu de migdia costs 12€ but some items had supplements varying from 2 – 5 €. It was very good value nevertheless and we drank rosado, of course!

Topik is at: c/ València 199, 08011, Barcelona

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