All posts by Phil

Pâte sucrée (sweet shortcrust pastry) and Afternoon Tea

In 2014, I wrote:

Mum and Dad celebrated their Diamond (60th) Wedding Anniversary in 2014. As well as sending them to a local restaurant for a meal, we decided to have an afternoon tea.

For me, afternoon tea is lots of small patisserie and cake items; oh, and some token sandwiches beforehand. I’m not one for scones and cream as part of ‘afternoon tea’; they’re for other occasions when they can be enjoyed on their own. Now, we’re not ‘The Savoy’, or even ‘The Great British Bake Off’, so I choose just a small selection of simple things: individual lemon meringue pies, fruit tarts, and meringues, along with cupcakes made by my daughter Hannah. The meringue uses up the egg whites left after the yolks have been used for the pastry and lemon meringue filling. Savouries were cucumber, egg, ham, and cheese sandwiches, some even had the crusts cut off!

‘Ere, how come when it’s lemon meringue it’s a pie, but when it’s fruit, it’s a tart?

Never mind, what I do know is that with pies or tarts, it’s all about the pastry – it needs to be strong enough not to fall apart but melt-in-the-mouth when you eat it. My method may not be the proper way but it works and results in a pastry case that’s more like shortbread than pastry.

Continue reading Pâte sucrée (sweet shortcrust pastry) and Afternoon Tea

Chelsea Bun(ish) Recipe

Originally posted in 2008:

Now I know if I call this recipe a Chelsea Bun, someone will come along and say, “Oh, no it’s not, a Chelsea bun is made with currants, lemon zest, or whatever and glazed with the milk of a particular species of Yak, only found on one lost island in Battersea Park!” Hence the ‘ish’ in the title!

I made these a couple of weeks ago from a recipe in Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave’s Cookery Bible but wasn’t 100% happy with them. Here’s my take on the recipe, it still needs fine tweaking, but hey-ho.

Dough
450gm Strong Bread flour
55gm butter
55gm sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice
2 packets easy blend yeast
200gm milk – tepid
2 eggs

Filling
55gm butter
55gm sugar – plus a bit for tops
80gm raisins – soaked in tea or booze until plump
80gm sultanas – soaked in tea or booze until plump

To finish
Apricot or another glaze.

Method
Put the fruit to soak in sweet cold black tea, or any other fine beverage of choice – brandy would be good.

Melt the butter for the dough (only just get it really soft – not frying temperature). Put all the dough ingredients in a food mixer bowl and, using the dough hook, kneed for 10 minutes – it’ll probably be very sticky!.

Shape into a ball on a well-floured surface, return to the bowl, cover, and leave to rise until doubled in size.

Mix (cream) the butter and sugar for the filling together. I may add some cinnamon to it next time.

When the dough has risen, roll it out to a rectangle about 12″ (30cm) wide by as long as you can get it, maybe 16″ (40cm) if you’re lucky.

Spread the dough with the butter/sugar mix and spread the (well drained) fruit in a layer over it leaving the last ½” (1cm) uncovered. Roll the dough up into a ‘swiss roll’ and cut into 12-16 slices.

Put oven to heat on 180°C (350°F).

Place the coils of dough, laid flat, about ¼”-½” (about 10mm) apart in a roasting tin. Leave to rise until doubled in size and all pushing against each other.

Sprinkle with sugar and cook for about 20-25 minutes (the time will vary depending on the oven). Check after 10 minutes and, if they are going very brown, cover loosely with foil.

Cool and glaze with apricot glaze or any other glaze of your choice.

Enjoy!

I fancy varying the recipe next time and using chocolate chips and pieces of pear instead of the dried fruit.

Bacon and Cheese Quiche

There you go, I’m being posh and calling it quiche! It’s really a good old bacon and cheese flan. It’s a pity that so many poor imitations of this superb rich savoury egg custard are sold by supermarkets and presented to the world on numerous buffets with cheap frozen sausage rolls and those damn miniature scotch eggs.

A good quiche is all about the quality of the ingredients, there’s few of them, so they all count. Use good dry-cured bacon (mild smoked if you like), good eggs, double cream not milk, and you won’t go far wrong. One other thing, and a very important one, is that most recipes (including Delia) will tell you to cook the quiche at too high a temperature. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – cook the quiche at around 160°C or below; you’re making a savoury custard, not an omelette!

I was fortunate to receive Jane Grigson’s book “Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery”, for my birthday a week or so ago. You see, it’s not just me:

Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes. Remember that a quiche is a savoury custard tart; it mustn’t cook too quickly or it will curdle.

I feel a bit of a fraud giving a recipe; it’s not rocket science, but here’s my take on it:

Pastry

6oz Plain Flour
3oz lard (or lard/butter mix)
about ¼ teasp salt
water

Rub the fat into the flour/salt until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add water a little at a time and mix until it forms a dough. In all honesty, I generally make a batch using 1lb flour, 8oz fat and 1 teaspoon of salt, in the food processor. Don’t add too much liquid or the pastry will be hard – about 1½ – 2 tablespoons (ish) should be about right for 6oz flour.

Use the pastry to line a loose-bottomed flan tin (approx. 7½ inch diameter) then prick the base with a fork, line it with parchment paper, fill with baking beans, or rice or dried beans, and bake it at 180°C for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and bake it for a further 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C ready for the next stage.

Filling

6 – 8oz bacon
2 – 3oz grated cheese
¾ pint double cream
3 eggs
Salt and pepper

While the pastry is cooking, remove the rind from the bacon and discard it. Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry it, then put it on a paper towel to drain and cool. Mix the eggs and cream and season. Sprinkle the bacon over the base of the pastry followed by the cheese and then fill with the egg/cream mix. I do this while the pastry case is still on the oven shelf to avoid spillage. Bake it at 160°C for 40 minutes or so until it’s set.

It can be eaten warm but according to my wife is better eaten at room temperature the following day.

Chicken with Lemon, Basil and Garlic

I wrote this originally in 2009:

One of my old standbys –  based on a recipe from Nigel Slater’s book ‘Toast’. A book well worth buying.

The recipe is simplicity itself.

Chicken with Lemon, Basil and Garlic


Cut a chicken into 8 pieces. Put it into a roasting tin with a head of garlic (crushed up a bit) and some onion segments. Squeeze over the juice from two lemons and chuck the lemons in. Glug with olive oil and stuff in the oven at 180°C for ½ hour. Then chuck a glass of white wine in along with a handful of basil leaves. Cook for 15 minutes more and serve…

…dip ya bread in!

This is even nicer done with preserved lemons.

Pauline can’t have wine, so I used chicken stock instead. She’s going to have to go!

Butter Making

Originally posted at Christmas 2009

This time of year is great for picking up double cream that’s near its sell-by date from the Supermarket. Just after Easter or Wimbledon are also good times.

I make butter using my Kenwood mixer, you could also use an electric whisk, or even make it by hand.

I put the cream in the mixer with a pinch of salt and a small pinch of sugar for every 300ml. I’ve no idea why I use the sugar; it’s just that I saw a lady who had made the butter for Chatsworth house for about 50 years do it. Who am I to argue with her experience?

Using the K beater on the mixer, start ‘churning’ the cream

Nearly there!

If you don’t have a bowl cover use a tea towel, or when it ‘turns’ it will splatter everywhere:

Turn it off quickly when you hear the butter slopping around in the butter milk.

Now the important bit, rinse and work the butter in very cold water to get rid of as much of the milky stuff in the butter as you can, then put it onto a board and pat (beat) it – water will come out of it. I don’t have butter pats so use my hands and a rolling pin.

I flatten it, then roll it like a Swiss roll to shape it.

You can see from the photo that it needs more work to extract water – I’m going to be using it quickly so it’s not so important. This butter will freeze well, so there’s no excuse for not making plenty.

The taste reminds me of the creamy Normandy butter you get in France. It’s far better than shop-bought and for about half the price. You also get the buttermilk, which makes great scones or can be used to dip chicken into before coating in breadcrumbs or flour when making fried chicken.

Chocolate Fondant Cake

I originally posted this recipe in December 2007 but it proved so popular at a recent buffet that I make no apologies for re-posting it here.

This cake is great! It’s really easy to make and more or less foolproof. It also feeds a fair number, as it is very rich.

Ingredients

3½oz (85g) 70% chocolate (broken up)
12oz (350g) butter (in small chunks)
2oz (60g) cocoa (sieved)
3floz (90ml) boiling water (approx.)
14oz (400g) sugar
3 large eggs
7oz (200g) plain flour

Method

1. Melt butter and chocolate, in a bowl over simmering water.
2. Make a paste of the boiling water and cocoa. Remove the bowl from the water, pour the cocoa mix over the chocolate/butter and mix with an electric mixer.
3. Add the sugar, mix, and then mix in the eggs, one at a time.
4. Add the flour, mix, and then beat it on high speed for 1 minute.
5. Bake at 180C in a buttered and floured 9-inch springform tin, lined on the bottom with parchment.
6. Check after about 30–35 mins. A big crack or two will appear when it is cooked but the cake will still wobble when shaken. Depending on the oven, this may take longer.

To finish

7. Allow to cool for 20 mins – remove from springform (do not turn upside down though until cold as it may leak).
8. Leave until cold before use. The cake should ‘ooze’ chocolate when cut.

It’s seriously good

Dry Cured Corned Beef – Preparation

My good friend Paul from North Carolina revised an injection cure to use as a dry-cure for beef brisket. He cooked it to eat on St. Patrick’s day in 2020. I thought of it the other day when we were shopping at a local trade wholesaler as they had brisket on offer. It seemed an ideal time to try something like Paul made without risking expensive meat.

I decided to stick close to Paul’s recipe – I trust him in these things. However, I’ve reduced the allspice and increased the juniper to take account of our preferences.

I trimmed the meat.

Then prepared the cure.

It looks and smells good.

I put the meat into a bag for curing before I rubbed the cure onto it. It’s less messy that way.

The meat will now cure for 20 days or so in the fridge. I’ll leave it for that long because saltpetre needs time to react with bacteria in the meat to do its job.

The results and cooking instructions are in this post.

Pork Liver Pâté

 

In 2009, I wrote:

There are only so many faggots a man can take (I hope that no one in the US misunderstands this!). So what’s different that you can do with the masses of pork liver from your half pig? Liver Pâté is the obvious one but it’s taken me ages to find a recipe that isn’t just too… …well just too ‘livery’.

This recipe, a slight amendment of the one from ‘Charcuterie’ by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, is the best so far. The one I formulated myself was too strong in the liver department, and bitter in taste. In my notes I wrote: “add breadcrumbs/rusk, add milk product”, that’s exactly what this recipe does. Some parts of the method are my additions.

Ingredients

1 lb/450 gms pork liver, cut into large chunks
1 lb/450 gms boneless pork shoulder, diced
1 ounce/25 gms salt
1 tsp/3 gms freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp/30 ml vegetable oil
¼ cup/50 gms chopped shallots
2 tbsp/30 ml brandy
2 slices white bread, crusts removed and roughly chopped
½ cup/120 ml whole milk
¼ cup/60 ml double cream.
2 large eggs
1 tbsp/6 gms chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ tsp/0.5 gm ground white pepper
½ tsp/1 gm freshly grated nutmeg

Method

1. Put the meats in separate bowls with half the salt, pepper, thyme and bay in each, mix and marinate separately for 8 hours or overnight.
2. In a frying pan, sear the liver in the oil until brown, add the shallots and cook until translucent, add the brandy, cook off the alcohol, scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan and put in a bowl to cool in the fridge.
3. Mix the bread, milk, cream and eggs well and set aside.
4. Keeping everything very cold, mince everything except the bay and thyme (which can be thrown away) through the fine plate of your mincer. (watch out as the liver has a tendency to squirt through the mixer plate!).
4. If you want an even finer pâté put the lot in the freezer with your food processor bowl for 20 minutes or so. Then process until very fine. Check the temperature with a thermometer regularly – don’t let it exceed 15°C. (Food processors heat food very quickly so watch out – or omit this step).
5. Line a mould with cling film, greaseproof paper, or baking parchment and fill it pushing the mix into the corners. Cover the pâté with the chosen lining and then with foil.
6. Put in a bain-marie (roasting tin of hot water) in the oven at 150°C, test with a thermometer after about 1-1½ hours – remove when it’s been above 65°C for 10 minutes if using pork (or when it reaches 72°C for chicken liver).
7. Put weights on top of the pâté and cool.

Salt (Corned) Beef

In 2008, I wrote:

In this country, we are used to corned beef out of a tin. The corned beef I am making is more like an unsmoked version of Pastrami. It gets its name from the ‘corn’, grains of coarse salts that are used to cure it. Traditionally made with brisket it can also be made with other cuts – in this case, a piece of topside weighing about 3lb.

The cure used is:

Ingredients
Water 1500gm
Salt 180gm
Light Brown or Demerara Sugar 180gm
Cure 1 (Prague Powder 1) 48gm
Juniper Berries 10
Cloves 2
Black Peppercorns 6
Parsley Stalks 2
Thyme Sprigs 2
Bay Leaves 1
Coriander Seeds 6

Method
Crush spices roughly and boil in water with sugar and salt. Cool and add cure. Pump with 10% of the meat’s weight of cure and immerse in the remaining cure for 5-6 days.

I put this in to cure on New Year’s Day. The meat weighed 1480gm, so was injected with 148gm of cure. Today, I have washed the meat in cold water and put it in a casserole with a chopped onion, carrot and a celery stick, along with about ½ pint of boiling water. I cooked it in the oven for 2½ hours at 160°C.

Added 2021: This recipe produces a very mildly spiced corned beef which I like for sandwiches. I like to slice it thinly and use 4 or 5 slices rather than one thick slice. It makes a nice, if somewhat untraditional, Reuben sandwich. I’ve recently posted a recipe for a dry-cured salt beef that has more spice and should be better for eating as a hot meal.