Monday, September 28, 2009

Damson oat crumble

Hurry, while the damsons last. Their intense, tart flavour is unique. We're working our way through a compote - damsons simmered in sugared water until very soft, pushed through a sieve, and frozen in a Tupperware container. We warm up chunks of it, and eat it with a little cream or ice cream.

The following recipe comes, as do many of the pudding dishes on this blog, from Margaret Costa's Four Seasons Cookery Book (Grub Street). I quickly gave up the idea of stoning the damsons: most of the flesh adheres to the stones. So we had to pick out the stones as we ate.

It is difficult to rub butter efficiently into a mix of flour, oats and sugar. I ended up with a mixture that looked a bit like roughly ground hazelnuts. No matter.

This quantity served six at the end of a largish meal. It would be about right for four hungrier people.

675g damsons
115g brown sugar
55g porridge oats
25g plain flour
Pinch ground cinnamon
55g butter

Put the damsons in a buttered oven dish, sprinkle over half the sugar, and scatter over about 60ml of water.

In a bowl, mix the rest of the sugar, the oats, flour, and cinnamon. Rub in the butter. Do not worry about the lumpy texture.

Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top of the damsons, and bake in a mark 5/190C oven for about 30 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the crumble is crunchy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fried cheese sandwiches

The ingredients for these three sandwiches were:

80g Gruyere, grated
2 egg yolks, beaten
1tsp mustard
Few splashes Worcester sauce
Cayenne and/or black pepper, if you like

Packeted, sliced bread works particularly well, I am afraid. Cut off the crusts. Mash the ingredients, and spread them on half of the slices, in the centre. Lay the other slices on top. You may find with this kind of bread that you can squidge the edges together.

Melt a knob of butter and a little olive oil in a frying pan, over a low to medium heat. (Use no more fat than you want to eat, because the bread will absorb it all.) Slip in the sandwiches, and fry until brown beneath - 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the sandwiches, and add a little more butter and oil. The butter may sizzle rapidly, so to keep it from burning you may need to remove the pan from the heat. Fry the other sides of the sandwiches.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keith Floyd and Auvergne rarebit

The news that Keith Floyd had died at the early age of 65 does not come as a huge surprise. Even in his heyday he was clearly drinking too much; my publishing friends said that he was very difficult to deal with. In recent years, as his career declined, his health was the subject of various alarming bulletins.

I first watched him rather late in his TV career, and could not quite see why he was so popular. The charm and ebullience had faded, to be replaced by a more manic quality. He didn't seem to be enjoying himself much. You were uncomfortably aware of the tensions as filming took place.

The book of Floyd on France, which someone gave to me, was a nice surprise. The instructions for many of the recipes are a little too perfunctory: I don't believe that they would all work without adjustment. But the book is inspiring, nonetheless, because it is the work of a genuine enthusiast. That is the quality that fans saw in the best of his TV work.

Floyd's version of the following recipe has five to six cloves of garlic, simply squished into the mixture. Not everyone wants to eat nearly raw garlic, and especially not in the kind of dish you are most likely to eat at lunchtime. Floyd specifies Tomme de Cantal - the young, soft version of the cheese. It is hard to find. Serves 4.

4 thick slices of white bread (crusts as well, if you like), torn into chunks
1 clove garlic, chopped
50g butter
As much cheese (Cantal, Cheddar, Gruyere - that sort of thing) as you like, cut into slivers

Pour just enough milk over the bread to give it a good soaking. You want a quantity of bread that will make a layer in a large frying pan - lay it on a large plate to check.

Melt the butter in the pan, over a low heat. Add the garlic, and stir it about. Tip in the bread, and lay the cheese on top, squishing everything down with a spatula.

Allow the mixture to brown underneath. Then brown the top under the grill.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Scrambled eggs with vinegar

I have concluded that it is best not to put vinegar and salt in the water when you poach eggs: they soften the whites, which fail to cohere. But their softening effect is ideal for scrambled eggs. To four eggs, I added 1tsp of white wine vinegar, which we could not taste when the eggs were cooked. They were deliciously soft and creamy.
Melt 1tbsp butter in a non-stick pan. Beat the eggs lightly (to encourage them to set) with the salt and vinegar, pour into the pan, and cook over a low heat, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, keep another tbsp of butter, cut into pieces, to hand.
The trick is to judge the moment when to take the pan off the heat. The eggs should be approaching the perfect state, in which they are set but still creamy, but not quite there - they will carry on cooking in the hot pan. Stir in the remaining butter, which will help to arrest the cooking process.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Potato cake

I have not found the ideal recipe for potato cakes. Ones bound with flour - as in a Simon Hopkinson recipe in Roast Chicken and Other Stories - taste too floury, in my experience (though perhaps I should have made them smaller and flatter, like Scotch pancakes). Mashed potato simply formed into patties and fried tends to fall apart. But the one above worked pretty well.

It is bound with beaten egg. I used just enough egg to bind the potato, which became alarmingly squidgy. However, once placed in hot oil in the frying pan, it cohered.

My daughter complained that the texture was too dry.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bubble and squeak

Like Tuesday's recipe, this is an adaptation from one in my friend Carolyn's recent piece in the Guardian.

2tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped

2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 quarter cabbage, chopped

2 cooked sausages, sliced

80g Gruyere, grated

Salt, pepper

In a frying pan, and over a low to medium heat, soften the onion and garlic with a little salt for about five minutes. Tip in the potato, cabbage, and sausage, add salt and pepper to taste, and stir everything about a bit. Flatten the mixture with a spatula, and cook it for a further five minutes, or until the underside starts to brown.

Tip the mixture into an oven dish. Sprinkle the cheese on top, and amalgamate it a little by pressing down with a fork. Bake for about 30 minutes at gas mark 6/200C.

The result is pictured above. I ate it all.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Stir-fried pork and cabbage

This is a rough approximation of a recipe from a delightful piece by my friend Carolyn Hart in the Guardian.

Bunch (6) spring onions
3 cloves garlic, chopped
450g pork mince
2tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 cabbage, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1tsp sugar
1tbsp nam pla (fish sauce)
A few splashes soy sauce

Unlike Carolyn, I threw the onions, garlic and mince into the pan with the oil at the same time. I fried the mixture on a low to medium heat. It took about 25 minutes for the mince to start to brown.

Meanwhile, I steamed the cabbage for three minutes. I drained it, and added it to the browned mince, allowing it to warm up again for a few minutes. While that was going on, I dissolved the sugar in the lime juice, and stirred in the nam pla and soy sauce. I poured the mixture into the pan, stirring and allowing it to bubble for a minute.

Carolyn's addition of coriander would have been nice - but I didn't have any.