Saturday, 25 December 2010

Mulled cider

Traditionally cider is mulled by plunging a redhot poker into the mug. So why not ? Well it turns out I don't have quite the right shape of poker, we can work round that though.

You'll need mulling spices:- Nutmeg,Ginger,Cloves,Cinnamon,Allspice & maybe a little Star Anise. Adjust them to your taste and put them in half a pint of good (hard) cider. A couple of spoonfuls of dark sugar, a measure of rum (or maybe brandy) and some citrus (hey it's Christmas so use some tangerine segments). Stir it well together and pour into a fireproof mug, then plunge in a redhot poker.
The cider will foam up, with a great hissing sound and the room should fill with the scent of christmasy loveliness.

If you aren't blessed with a real fire, then heat the mixture through gently on the stove till warm & then pour out.

Friday, 24 December 2010


I'd been asked to make eggnog, well told to get making it really.

There are some truly frightening recipes out there (125ml of brandy +55ml dark rum for 1 person !), my favourite of those was this :-

General Harrisons Eggnog

1 egg
1 pt (hard) cider
1.5 teaspoons sugar
2-3 lumps cracked ice.

Given how dry our cider is I thought I'd skip that as it sounded like a recipe for curdled hell.

My Eggnog (for 3)

2 whole eggs
50ml spiced rum
60ml brandy
 2 tsp icing sugar

 Shake hard over ice till a uniform yellow colour
 Add c150ml whole milk, strain into glasses
 Top with nutmeg (fresh if possible)

Nollaig shona duit

Monday, 20 December 2010

Poached duck eggs

I do like poached duck eggs, I finally got enough time together to have a stab at doing them sat bains style
First off I needed a water bath, this is my ersatz set up.

Thats a large pan of water, my meat thermometer and the smallest ring on my gas hob on it's lowest setting heating maybe a third of the pan's base. This kept everything at a fairly even 58-60c.

The eggs went in & I spent the next couple of hours stopping the water from heating too much or cooling down excessively. In between worrying about that I fretted about how I was going to get the eggs out of their shells (Yup you poach them in the shell, I assume it doesn't count as boiling, because you get nowhere near 100c). Turns out they come out of the shell quite easily if you can bring yourself to give the shell enough of a tap against the pan edge.

I served them on hot buttered toast, because it was a "quick" lunch rather than anything fancy & because I was all out of pata-negra ham.

Was it worth it ? I think so, with a proper water bath it's definitely worth while, the yolk ends up really rich. I think next time (and there will be a next time)  I'll let them go for a bit longer and I'll keep the temperature more to the higher end.

Enjoy, I know I did.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Port wine #2

This time of year cocktail thoughts turn to warming sweetish drinks, heavy on the brown flavours, with orange & spices. Losing the sharpness of fresh citrus fruit.
Looking through some lists found the Port wine #2.
This is definitely an old skool cocktail, being mostly port, here is the recipe (adapted slightly) from the Savoy Cocktail Book

Port Wine #2

large measure port
dash orange bitters
dash angastoura bitters
2 dashes triple sec

stir over ice, strain into a port glass garnish with an orange twist.

It is a sweet rich concoction with orange overtones and a spicy bitter finish. A surprisingly good drink for such a simple recipe. Getting the bitters together might be a bit of a job, but its a fine way to deal with the less than stellar port that turns up round this time of year.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Mince pies

Ahh the humble1 mince pie.

I feel sorry for all those cultures that don't get this Christmas delicacy.
First mincemeat, these days most shop bought mince meat contains no meat, even the suet (traditionally beef) is vegetarian, it is worth checking the jar though. I've not been organized enough to make my own, so I fell back on my gran's time honoured method. Buy some in a jar at the earliest opportunity, take out a spoonful (If there is just one jar I eat that spoonful) replace the missing mince meat with brandy, give the jar a good shake & stick it in the cupboard for at least a week, preferably longer.

I treated myself to a new bun tray, since the only one I had was more of a muffin tin & a bit too deep for mince pies. I splashed out on a seriously heavyweight one, which means individual Yorkshire puddings are going to appear in the near future.

Step one is make some pastry, I used my all purpose shortcrust (1 part butter, 1 part lard, 8 parts flour) and added some sugar to sweeten it (not necessary, but it can help). and put it in the fridge to chill. If you are making pastry, always chill it in the fridge before using it.

Then get rolling & cutting. Fill each pie case with a spoonful of mincemeat (Add a drop of brandy to each pie at this point if you like (I do)) put the lid on (or if you are feeling really fancy, cut out a Christmassy shape and put that on the mincemeat) and pop them into an oven. Most recipes say gas 6 /200c for 20 minutes, in my oven this was about 5 minutes too long, so keep an eye on them and when the pastry is golden take them out. Turn them out on to a rack or board & let them cool. Mincemeat like jam gets hot & sticky, a bad combination, so let that cool enough to be safe. Serve warm or cold, with cream, ice-cream or brandy butter (or a slice of strong cheese) and enjoy.

This is my little joke, mince pies where in times past known as humble or 'umble pies and used the humbles of an animal (usually deer) as the meat base (that's offal in modern terms). 

Friday, 3 December 2010


What is Thanksgiving without turkey ? Apparently not thanksgiving, never mind nobody is really a fan of turkey.
To deal with this I bought a turkey crown (which was going to be a help with the oven size too)

 I then had a look for some recipes. Citrus & sage butter sounded about right, so I grabbed more sage and got to work.

Shred the sage finely and zest a lemon, mix the lot up into some butter (about 100g was good for my amount of turkey) push the butter up under the skin & into the centre of the boned & rolled crown. Thickly slice the zested lemon & put it on the bottom of the roasting dish, stand the turkey on top. Stick the lot into a gas 6/200c oven.

I used my meat thermometer to find out when the centre had reached 70c (it ought to be safe from 66 up) . About half way through I covered the top with foil to prevent the skin burning.
Once its out let it rest (wrapped in foil) for 20-30 mins then slice & serve.

I was quite impressed, there was very little if any of the terrible dryness that can afflict turkey and the lemon & sage had perfumed the whole roast. Pretty worth while way to deal with the big bird.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Cider & Sage Jelly

We've made some cider (hard cider for the US types) with our neighbours, using the apple from their allotment. At some point soon I'll do a huge post covering the cider making but for now here is a little teaser.

The ham needed something, after all the turkey had 2 kinds of stuffing & cranberry sauce, the ham was feeling left out so a cold savoury jelly seemed like a good plan. Alcohol retards the action of gelatine so a bit of thinking was required. I grabbed some sage from my garden and made up 250ml of sage/sugar solution. "50ml water 250g sugar put together in a pan over a gentle heat & stir, add a handful of sage leaves & carry on stirring to let the sugar dissolve. Leave to cool and once cool remove the sage leaves.

Next bloom the gelatine. I used a 50/50 mix of cider & sugar solution to do this, then top the pan upto about 200ml of sugar solution & cider heat gently and stir.    Stir lots.
 Once the gelatine is fully dissolved add the rest of the cider & the sugar/sage solution and stir quickly to incorporate. Then pour the whole lot through a fine sieve to catch any unpleasant solids that have been left behind.

 I had intended to get a soft set, but we ended up with a pretty firm jelly, turn it out and mash it over with a fork to give handy sized chunks. Served with the ham it provided a great counter point to the sweetness and added a touch of needed bite to the plate

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Ham in Coca-cola

So we were having a thanksgiving party, what could be more American than ham in coke ?

Nigella Lawson has a few versions of this, so I went with it

I bought "green Gammon" from my butcher, its been slated but that's the full extent of the cure.
I always soak gammon joints, so it went in a big pan covered with cold water for a couple of hours, I changed the water hourly. Once you are done with that chop a large onion, put the Gammon skin side down in a the pan throw in the onion & add 2l of coke.

Bring it all to the boil & then let it simmer for about an hour per kilo and add on half an hour for good measure. At this point the meat is cooked & could easily be eaten. However its better if it gets glazed & has some time in the oven. In a fit of organization I did the boiling on the Friday and let my hame rest overnight.
Time to make the glaze

Take 2 tsp sugar
         2 tsp treacle
         2tsp mustard

Mix them together (do it in a bowl stood in warm water, it makes life a lot easier). Whilst that stands take the skin off the joint & cut the fat down to a "reasonable level". Score it (traditionalists use large diamond shaped scores) and then slather it with your glaze. Finally stud it with cloves at the intersection of each score.

Now it needs to go in the oven, since my ham was room temperature I used a slowish oven (gas 4/180) for 45 minutes, feel free to reach in & baste occasionally.

Let it rest and if you have fewer guests or a larger table than I had proudly carry it out & carve it in-situ. Or slice it in the kitchen & pile high on a plate.