Showing posts with label Pudding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pudding. Show all posts

Friday, 4 March 2011

Main course

I wanted pastry on the menu and the various machinations of the menu meant it ended up here. The 3rd class menu has beefsteak & onion pie as a lunch. Not being totally hidebound I changed it to beefsteak & onion pudding. Since we were on an Edwardian theme I took the liberty of using oysters. Oysters back then were cheap, much cheaper than mushrooms, so were used to bulk out the gravy.This being a dinner party though I added mushrooms too for a super luxury pudding.

I cook the steak for an hour or so with herbs & onion plus some port to get it tender. Brown off the kidneys and add them to the steak mix. Chop the oysters & mushrooms, stir into the now steak & kidney mix. Ladle the lot into a nice suet pastry crust. Seal the lid on and then steam for an hour or two (about 90 mins is fine for a 750ml pudding). Because I couldn't find a large pudding bowl I made 3 small puddings (should have made 4, one for each funnel). Which turned out to be about right.
The oysters & the mushrooms dissolved into the gravy, giving a nice rich taste & texture, just the thing for a cold night.
I served them up with Mash & veg and it seemed about the right potion size for everyone (at least I didn't get any complaints, just 11 clean plates).
I think I'll be adding oysters again in future as they definitely bring a certain something to the dish.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Dinner party

Well it all almost went to pieces due to a surprise snowfall.

Let me explain. I meant to go & get the meat for the main course on Saturday, unfortunately things conspired to get in my way. No problem, the farm shop is open 10-4 on a Sunday, the only thing I need is the Beef (vital, after all the centre piece is a Beef Wellington). I have several recipes for Beef Wellington, the traditional ones require gallons of claret and heaps of Foie-gras. The more modern ones use a mushroom Duxelles. I prepared that & the puff pastry on the Saturday, thinking Sunday would be a quick dash out to get the beef, some work with our friends & then assemble & go.

Fortunately the snow didn't bring everything to a grinding halt & I was able to get out to the farm and get my fillet. The beef I buy is traceable from birth local meat (the cows are usually in the field opposite the shop) that is properly aged. I'm happy to eat this beef raw (and have in the form of carpaccio). However it made a 40 minute errand into a two hour expedition. Needless to say no work got done & I spent time in the Kitchen instead. The pastry was already made as was the duxelles, so the first job was to whip up some square pancakes. In a modern beef Wellington these stop the pastry going soggy by acting as a barrier to the beef juices. Traditionally you used short crust as the bottom pastry & puff on top. Once done (and there is something very odd about square pancakes) they get set aside to cool.

Whilst that was happening I whipped up the batter for dessert a traditional treacle sponge pudding, that was going to be steamed for a couple of hours. The recipe I was using was an all-in-one method, which was a bit of an arm ache since I don't have an electric mixer (mind you it burnt the calories the snowfall had prevented me burning so...). Here it is in the pudding basin.
Remember when making steamed puddings put a string handle on the basin before it goes anywhere near your steaming set up. Also with this one it's going to expand, so make sure you put the pleat in the top covering its going to need it. With all that in mind I wrapped the pudding safely and then found a handy secondary use for crumpet rings as they can be used to keep the basin a lot higher up in the pan so you don't have to keep a very close eye on the pudding boiling dry. The pancakes had cooled enough by this time so it was out with the duxelles and the spatula to coat them. Your fillet then needs to be seared, do this in your favourite way (a quick flaming with brandy is always fun) and then let that cool (yeah there is a bit of waiting about with this recipe).

Beef Wellington construction then begins. Roll out a rectangle of pastry big enough to envelope your beef. Lay the duxelles covered pancakes mushroom side up on the pastry & then lay your fillet in the middle of them. Seal the fillet in the pancakes, then to make things a bit neater & more secure flip the fillet over so the pancake seam is in the middle of the pastry. Seal the beef & pancake construction in the pastry and give it a good egg wash & make sure everything is sealed up, decorate if you like and put in a couple of small steam vents, put aside till about 30 mins before serving. Get the oven warmed up to gas 4 and set your potatoes & veggies going. The beef wants to go in for 25-30mins .As somebody once said to me, "if you aren't going to eat the beef pink, then don't bother with this recipe, its a waste of your time & money".
Let it rest for 5-10 mins & then cut into it.
As you can see I went with rare, rather than medium. The pastry grows & the meat shrinks, so you end up with a bit of extra pastry ends. I was really worried about this dish once it went in the oven, beef fillet is an expensive cut & I was scared it was going to get ruined, fortunately that didn't happen. Between the five of us we managed to eat the entire Wellington, not bad for a 750gr fillet, even the meat free bits of pastry from the end got eaten and one person actually had 3rds of this incredibly rich confection. I was holding back, because simmering away was the pan in which the treacle sponge was steaming.

Another success (phew) even if I didn't grease the basin quite thoroughly enough or allow for the amount of expansion I should have. Serve with crème fraîche ? I don't think so, its not going to make an appreciable dent in the vast pile of calories that you are consuming by simply sticking your spoon in a treacle pudding, so treat yourself and go with real cream or in our case clotted cream. Somehow 3 of us managed seconds on dessert. So there we have it a hugely calorific meal, given the cocktails before hand (a nice Gin & grapefruit number that I'll talk about in more detail later and the wine (a pair of good new world shirazs) I dread to think what we actually consumed. It was a success & I'd be happy to do it again, but its definitely a winter menu.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Treacle tart a la Blumenthal

Probably the first thing you heard about Heston Blumenthal was "snail porridge" or "bacon & egg ice cream". They are both great dishes, but to the man in the street it seems more shock & awe than cooking. So a couple of years back when the BBC commissioned "In search of perfection" I tuned in. The first thing I saw was his treacle tart program. Him & his research chefs made a vast array of syrups, from scratch and then tasted them and came to the conclusion that "The one in the familiar green tin"1 was the best. That pretty much sealed my fate, after all how many 3 star chefs after experiment say buy the ingredient from the local co-op !

So when I got the book of the series I enjoyed reading it and started to look for a recipe I could give a reasonable go to, after the burgers the tart looked like a good bet, I was aware that some step would be given in an offhand manner, which to the home cook would take hair-pulling, teeth gnashing fury. I didn't expect it quite so early though. Here are the pastry ingredients.
 Yes that is a lot of butter & its about to cause me some grief & the most work of the entire recipe. The pastry is 400g of plain flour & 400g of unsalted butter (yup co-op's finest there). The recipe gliby says "you may have to add the butter in batches" The reality is you absolutely have to add the butter in batches, rubbing it in is going to take an hour or so, keep ice water to hand so you don't overwork the pastry. Once you got it down to bread crumbs you make it even richer with icing sugar, 2 yolks, 1 egg, the zest of a lemon and the seeds of a vanilla pod.

It seemed quite sticky at this stage, but prior to letting it rest in the fridge (for at least 3 hours, making my fingers thankful) I weighed it. 1.1 kg of pastry, and a vanilla & lemon scented kitchen. Good stuff. Only 2/3rds of this monstrous ball of pastry are going to be used according to the book, but that's not how it happened in my kitchen. The next issue was breadcrumbs, they are horrifically difficult to make by hand, in fact so difficult I had to go and cadge some food processor time off my neighbour. Back to the now rested pastry time to roll it out. The recipe tells you to do this between floured sheets of greaseproof paper which does make life a little easier, I'm sure I seen another TV chef credit Heston with this, but it seems a bit unlikely. Rolled out dropped into a buttered flan dish /tart plate (or in my kitchen 2 medium ones) and back to the fridge, this is some well rested laid back pastry. Half an hour later its back out the fridge, prick over the base, load up with greaseproof and baking beans (or whatever you use (HB suggests coins)) and take it back to the fridge for another rest. Time to pre-heat the oven. Once that's happened & the pastry has rested (30mins later) in go the tart cases to bake blind.

Lets have a look at the filling. Ok eggs & cream, then salt & vanilla. Quickly whip up a buerre noisette.strain & filter it and put it in a pan with your 2 tins of golden syrup (that's just under a kilo of refined sugar goodness ( A quick aside, treacle tart is even in its meanest incarnations a rich dish, if you are counting calories, don't make this)).
The heated syrup is a lot easier to work with than cold syrup.

This gets combined with the bread crumbs, some lemon zest & juice and the  egg & cream mixture. This then gets transferred to a jug to fill the tart case(s). There is a puzzling instruction at this point. "Fill the case with 2/3rds of the mixture transfer to the oven & then pour in the remaining mixture" The quicker witted amongst you will know why, I found out. Its so you don't slosh treacle mix everywhere. Time to relax while a nice slow oven works its magic on the treacle mix. An hour later and viola a treacle tart, or maybe 2. Having had little luck getting dry ice, I skipped the ice-cream, made a cocktail out of the egg whites & lemon juice and sat down with the neighbours (only fair since they lent me the food processor) and dug into still warm tart.


Oops, didn't quite get the pastry flat, but its vanilla/lemon scented goodness lifts the tart beyond the mundane, before you get anywhere near the filing. As you can see there is a crust over sticky goo, this is exactly how treacle tart should be. The top is on the edge of crunchy, and not dry in the slightest. Is it perfect ? Well with the burgers its very difficult to find a good burger in these parts, treacle tart however is easier, and I've eaten my fair share. From WI tart to corner bakery varieties, from cheap no frills to taste the difference. This is the best, everything about it is right, when I make it again, I'll be using slightly more chopped lemon zest, but that's about it. Oh yes the quantities, Heston does overshoot, and I can see several reasons why. The book says 8-10 portions. I'd say its more like 12 & then you can use the spare pastry & treacle mix to make individual tarts for deserving co workers.

To see more photos go here
The cocktail recipe will appear shortly
1 For those of you unfamiliar with the BBC they have to be quite careful about brand names, the tin in question is the familiar (to most of the UK)  green Tate & Lyle golden syrup tin. Yes that is a dead lion, and no those are bees not flies.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

steak & kidney pudding

An English classic. One of those things is the way the word pudding is used in the English language, often it means dessert. However it has a host of savoury uses from Yorkshire puddings through to "The great chieftain o' the pudding race".
Steak & kidney pudding (known in some places as a "baby's head" (due to the soft spot on top)) is a steamed suet crust version of steak & kidney pie.

The suet crust recipe I used was based on delia Smith's
350g Self -raising flour
175g shredded beef suet  (you can  use  veggie suet, but it seems kinda pointless)
Cold water to mix.


Sift the flour & cut in the suet with a knife, when its well mixed  stir enough  water to make a sticky dough.  As usual its best to let the pastry rest. Butter a pudding basin & line it with the dough. You have a choice here, if you have 4-5 hours you can put you steak & kidney mix in raw, or if you only have a couple of hours quickly cooking as you would for steak & kidney pie works just as well. Once the pudding is full of steak & kidney put the lid on and press it well to the lining.


The big issue is that steak & kidney pudding is steamed so it needs to be carefully wrapped, a pudding cloth is traditional, but these days foil is usually used. It needs double wrapping and since its going to be steamed for at least a couple of hours taking the opportunity to create a lifting handle out of string. If you don't have a trivet a cheap ramekin will work. Stand the wrapped pudding on what ever it is you are using to keep the pudding off the bottom of the pan. Then pour boiling water in upto about 3/4 the way up your basin, put a lid on the pan and go find something to occupy yourself with whilst the pudding slowly fills your house with a delicious scent. Don't forget to make sure you don't boil dry.
 You did make the lifting string didn't you ? Only its really rather important at this point as you'll trying to wrestle out a slippy foil wrapped hemisphere that has been sat in steam for the past few hours. If you've done everything right you should have a steaming hot fluffy suet pudding. The next nerve wracking moment is getting it out of the basin, it was well buttered right ?

Using a butter knife to ease it out is kind of helpful. Opening the pudding should reward you with a blast of steam and a wondrous smell. As you can see I could have done with making a bit more gravy. Other than that though it was the proper taste of steak & kidney pudding.

The traditional accompaniment is chips (fries for our overseas readers) and peas (usually mushy). I went for the slightly healthier option of mash and a couple of types of veg.

All I can say is try it yourself, it is admittedly a bit more fiddly than a steak & kidney pie.  Mrs Beaton suggests the addition of a couple of oysters, thats a job for next time as the fishmonger was closed over Christmas & New Year