Monday, 28 January 2013

MELT - In a sticky situation?..... lick your way out with our frozen ice-creams and icey pops.

 Prosecco ice pops with raspberry and vanilla
Pandan ice cream with toffee pecans in a waffle cone
 Cherry sorbet on brioche rolls
Coconut and rum granita with fresh pineapple 
 Brownie and honeycomb ice cream cake with chocolate fudge sauce
Yogurt berry icy poles

Prosecco ice pops with raspberry and vanilla
Grab your cossie (or swimsuit for non-aussies) and your swan inflatable and float around the pool with one of these sweet icey pops in your hand. You'll be the talk of the town!
Makes approximately 10 x 125ml ice pops, depending on the size of the moulds.

1 bottle of Prosecco
½ cup water
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways
125g fresh raspberries, torn

1. Combine the Prosecco, water, sugar and vanilla pod in a saucepan over a medium heat, stir until it comes to the boil and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, remove the vanilla pod.
2. Pour the mixture evenly between icy pole moulds, leaving approximately 1cm at the top of each mould, the liquid will expand on freezing.
3Place in the freezer for 3 hours or until the liquid becomes slushy. Distribute the torn raspberries between the moulds pushing them down through the Prosecco mixture. Insert ice pop sticks and freeze for 8 hours or until frozen solid.
4. To unmould the pops, run the moulds under hot water for a few seconds, then gently pull the sticks, serve immediately.

Pandan ice cream with toffee pecans in a waffle cone
There's a little bit of Asia in every bite of these pale green ice cream cones.
Makes 1½ litres

2 cups milk
600ml cream
6 pandan leaves, twist the leaves and tie in a knot to release the flavour
1½ cups caster sugar
8 egg yolks
natural green food colouring
1 quantity Toffee pecan chunks
waffle cones, for serving

1. Combine the milk, cream, pandan leaves and ½ cup of the sugar in a saucepan, stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour.
2. Combine the remaining 1 cup of sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until pale and creamy. Gradually whisk in the cream and pandan mixture.
3. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir over a low heat until slightly thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow the custard to boil or it will curdle.
4. Remove from the heat and add the colouring one drop at a time until the desired colour green is reached. Strain into a large jug and chill for 2 hours.
5. Once cold churn in an ice-cream churn according to manufacturer’s instructions.  When ice cream is frozen and ready to remove from the churn add 1 cup of the Toffee pecan chunks and mix through.
6. Place into a freezer container and freeze for 4 hours or overnight.
7. Serve scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone topped with extra Toffee pecans.

Toffee pecans
Makes 1½ cups

110g pecans, roasted
1 cup sugar
½ cup water

1.Place the pecans in a single layer on a lined baking tray and set aside.
2. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, do not boil, increase to a medium heat and boil until a deep golden caramel colour.
3. Quickly pour the caramel over the pecan nuts to completely cover. Set aside at room temperature to harden.
4. Roughly chop into approx. 1cm chunks and use as required.
food dept. fact: Store praline in an airtight container to prevent it from becoming sticky in humid conditions.

Cherry sorbet on brioche rolls
Before you become seduced by the decadent magenta velverty masses of cherry sorbet, which you may feel like diving into, rememeber it tastes even better wedged between two sweet little brioche buns. Oh me oh my this is delightfully devilish and totally irresistible.
Makes 1 litre sorbet

• 600g fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
• ¾ cup caster sugar
• 1½ cups water
• juice, 1 lemon
• ¼ cup cherry liqueur
• brioche rolls, to serve

1. Place the cherries, sugar, water and lemon juice into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 minute, remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
2. Place the cherry mixture into a blender with the cherry liqueur and process until smooth. Pass though a sieve and leave in the fridge until chilled. 
3. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn until frozen. Place into a freezer proof container and freeze until required.
4. Halve and toast the brioche buns and sandwich back together with the cherry sorbet, serve imeadiately.

food dept. fact: If you don’t have an ice cream maker then place the sorbet mixture into a bowl in the freezer and every 2 hours remove from the freezer and beat until smooth. Repeat this about 3 times until frozen.

Coconut and rum granita with fresh pineapple 
This dessert is so easy and flavoursome. You will get lots of oooohhhhh's and ahhhh's from those who try this refreshing ice. It's a wonderful palate cleanser after dinner and before dessert. Make ahead and keep in your freezer, then serve in gelato bowls, your guests won't be able to stop at one scoop, trust us... we know!
Makes approx 1 litre

1 cup sugar
3 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
¼ cup coconut rum 
• 1 pineapple, peeled, cut in halve lengthways, cored and sliced into thin ribbons

1. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Mix the coconut milk and coconut rum into the sugar syrup and pour into a shallow freezer container and cover.  
3. Freeze for 4 hours, remove from the freezer and break up the ice crystals by scraping with a fork, mix well and return to the freezer for another 4 hours or overnight.
4. Scrap again with a fork and serve with pineapple ribbons. Store the granita in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Chocolate brownie and honeycomb ice cream cake with chocolate fudge sauce
Makes 1 x 20cm cake, serves 8

• 200g butter, roughly diced
150g dark chocolate – 70% cocoa, roughly chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1½ cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
2 x 1 litre tubs good quality vanilla ice cream
2 x 130g bags honey comb, (1 pkt cut into 1cm pieces and the other bag for serving)

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (360ºF). Grease and line a 20 x 30cm slice pan.
2. Combine the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until butter and chocolate have melted. Set aside and allow to cool.
3. Combine eggs, sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl and add the cooled chocolate mixture.  Place the flour into a mixing bowl. Pour in the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined.
4. Pour into the prepared slice pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked when tested. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
5. Remove from the pan and cut a circle using a 20cm spring form pan as a guide. Grease and line the spring form pan, ensuring the lining extends at least 5cm above the rim of the pan. Place the circle of brownie in the base, set aside.
6. Soften the ice cream and tip into a large mixing bowl.  Cut up the remaining fudge brownie into 1cm pieces and mix that with the chopped honeycomb through the softened ice cream.
7. Pour over the fudge brownie base in the spring form pan and place in the freezer for 6 hours or overnight.
8. Unmold and serve with Chocolate fudge sauce and extra honeycomb.

Chocolate fudge sauce
Makes 1½ cups

• 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
• 100ml cream
• 2 tablespoons agave syrup or light corn syrup

1. Combine the chocolate, cream and agave syrup in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water.
2. Stir gently until chocolate has melted and all of the ingredients are combined.
3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, serve warm over the ice cream cake.

Yogurt berry icy poles
If you want to go "slightly" healthy then this is the recipe for you. 
Makes approx. 10 x 125ml icy poles, depending on the size of the moulds.

1 cup caster sugar
• 1 cup water
• zest 1 lemon, peeled with a vegetable peeler 
500ml Greek style yogurt
250g frozen mixed berries

1. Combine the sugar, water and lemon zest in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Remove the lemon zest from the syrup and stir the syrup into the yogurt.
3. Roughly chop the frozen berries and gently fold into the yogurt mixture and working quickly fill your moulds with the mix and place into the freezer for about 1 hour. Insert icy pole sticks into the center of each mould and freeze until solid for 4 hours or overnight.

food dept. fact: We used old tins to createinteresting shapes for our Yogurt berry icy poles but you can also use small glasses or even icy pole moulds for this recipe.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Secret of a Good Spag Bol

Spaghetti Bolognese or 'Spag Bol' is an habitual favourite in our house. The kids were weaned on the stuff and have graduated from fistfuls of blitzed, blended mush to the elegant twirling of fork in spoon, in what seems to be a short space of time. Using the word elegant is misguided actually, the mess remains the same. Pursed mouths start off clean at the start of the meal but with every suck and slurp of a wriggly worm, the orange circle that frames those cherry lips gets bigger and bigger. Until eventually, they end up looking like a pair of oompa loompas. Still, it’s fun to play with your food and at least pasta doesn’t get thrown at the walls these days.

For me, personally, cooking spag bol is the real fun part. If I can, I will kick off proceedings as early as possible, like before the school run. A bit of early morning chopping and frying is meditative and relaxing, especially when you are secreting carrot, peppers and celery into the mix. “Ha ha ha, you will eat your vegetables.” And I always make a large batch to a) freeze some of the ragu for future dinners and b) offset the guilt and cost of running gas under a stock pot for an entire day. I’ve soaked up this idea you see, gleaned from gangster movies, that in order to make a really, really good Bolognese, it needs to be cooked long and slow. I haven’t gone as far as to slicing up garlic thinly with a razor blade yet, so that it may liquidise in the pan but I might do one day, because it looks like a really good system.

With regards to recipes, methods and ingredients, the fundamentals remain the same but I don’t think I have ever categorically made the same spag bol twice. There is always a tweak or change somewhere down the line, depending on what spice or herb jar comes tumbling out of the cupboard after rifling through. Mistakes include cayenne pepper and juniper berries but fennel seed, nutmeg and even garam masala goes down well, in my opinion at least (cue howls of protest from Bologna). 

The one universal element I do stick by is Geo Watkins Anchovy Sauce. I use it every time. Not at all fishy and intensely savoury, this browny-grey, fetid looking stuff goes down a treat and really lifts the Bolognese, adding a background notes of …..of ….. je ne sais pas pourquoi. 

No, I really don’t know why but I also put it in a lot of other meaty dishes; in burgers, it reigns supreme. It just gives a hit of…………… 

I suppose really I am trying to avoid the word umami. And there you go, I’ve said it. It delivers a sucker punch of imaginary fifth taste umami and I love it. 

One day, I may even take a bottle into the shower with me.

Spag Bol – serves 4 (remember, this recipe changes all the time but like the speed of light, anchovy sauce remains constant)

1 kg minced beef
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
3 garlic gloves, finely chopped (or sliced with a razor blade if you feel so inclined)
1 red pepper, chopped
Handful of button mushrooms, chopped.
Glass of red wine
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
Glug of olive oil
Healthy pinch of oregano, dried
Healthy splash of Lea and Perrins
Healthy glug of Geo Watkins Anchovy Sauce
Pinch of celery salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Place a large, wide pan or stock pot on the hob, add your oil and heat over a medium flame. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sweat down until soft. Turn up the heat and then add the mince, stirring and browning all over. Throw in the red wine and cook until reduced and then add the garlic, pepper and mushrooms, again stirring through for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano, Lea and Perrins, anchovy sauce and a tin of water (from empty tomato can). Turn the heat right down and leave to gently simmer and bubble for as long as humanly possible. The ragu should thicken right down and if it starts to catch on the bottom of the pan, just top up with a little bit of water.

When ready to eat, after say a couple of days, boil a saucepan of water and add your spaghetti, cooking according to packet instructions or until al dente. Drain and divide between plates and then spoon a nice, generous portion of bol atop the pasta. 

Scatter freshly grated parmesan cheese on top from a great height and serve.

Plucked from cupboard obscurity (except the anchovy sauce)

 Vegetables secreted in mince



Spag Bol

Monday, 21 January 2013

Unusual Nuts: ID Contest

One of the most exciting things about food writing is stumbling upon something you've never seen before. Even more thrilling is the food you have actually written about but never tasted. These lovely nuts just happened to be featured among the several thousand vendors at the Fancy Food Show (still on in San Francisco). They are somewhat soft and buttery. A little sweet. I didn't set out to find them. In fact I wrote precisely about how they were introduced to the US about a century ago and then mysteriously disappeared. There were political reasons for this, I think. If you can identify them and tell me where they come from I'll send you a copy of the book NUTS: A HISTORY when it comes out. When that will be I can't promise since the publisher (this is in the Edible Series) has been inexplicably sitting on it for the past 6 weeks. But it's in the line up. And there you'll find the full story. But for the moment, who can tell me what these are? First correct answer, including origin, I promise a copy when it's printed.

Snow Larks and Sunday Supper Clubs

Hello everybody, are you enjoying the snow? I know I am and who wouldn't, you miserable gits!

Seriously, in my opinion, if you look out the window in the morning and spy a landscape transformed and don't ever get a buzz, a kick or feel your stomach turn over in excitement, then I believe a small part of your soul from childhood has died. 

No, nothing beats the sound of that fresh crunch underfoot, that fluttering soft flake alighting upon tongue, the thrill of plummeting downhill at 40 miles per hour on a tea tray, the whizzing of snowball past ear, the rosy cheeks, the laughter, the cheers, the carrots, Dad's old scarf and hat, hot chocolate, biscuits! Lots and lots of biscuits! Oh the gaiety that a winter wonderland brings.

And what japes you can have. Just yesterday, I played a trick on the twins when we were in the garden, building a snowman. Unbeknownst to them, I had secreted a small pot of lemon sorbet in the grass, with the lid off so that the yellow stood out amongst the blanket of white and beckoned them over.

"Hey guys, looks like the foxes have been busy doing their business in the snow, tsk."

And judging by the wrinkled noses, there were not impressed. They may only be four and three quarters but they know about the dangers of yellow snow.

Still, their reaction was far more severe when I whipped a glove off, stooped down and scooped a couple of fingers worth up into my mouth, uttering the words "Hmm yummy!" after doing so. In fact, they started screaming and...........

OK OK OK, I am making this all up but ever since the white stuff arrived, this devilish plan has been going over and over and over in my head. So I thought I should take the opportunity, whilst marketing my supper club in typical off-tangent fashion, to ask, do you reckon I should do it? 

Or do I risk destroying a small part of their souls?

*tumble weed*


Speaking of gaiety and fun and larks, the menu for the latest FU supper club which is on February 10th and has been up for a while now. 8 spaces have gone and 6 spaces are left, here is the menu:

Cream of Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chestnut and Parsley Pesto

Mackerel on Toast with Salted Cucumber and Horseradish

Slow cooked Belly of Pork with Cider and Fennel, Mash and Sprout Tops

Gingerbread and Pear Upside Down Pudding

This is all for 20 squids, including home made bread, palate cleanser and free, yes, free tap water.

If you like the sound of it, then please do drop me a line to confirm your place (and I might just make lemon sorbet for the palate cleanser).

I thank you

Furch x
Snow and innocence

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Why the long face about horse meat?

An edited version of this post first appeared on Great British Chefs blog.

Photo by Noodlepie
My very first encounter with horse meat came at the tender age of 17, when I was in Rouen on a rugby tour with a load of ugly, hormonal, immature reprobates; a merry bunch in which I include myself. We had just one free day to mess around and explore and so, after cavorting along the banks of the river and around the cathedral, a group of us went on an expedition; around the back streets in search of illicit beer and wandered for what seemed like hours. 

Eventually we came to a dingy looking cafe that looked like it would be cheap; judging by the rough exterior and Formica tables inside and would therefore have no scruples in selling us alcohol. We all sat around a table and ordered a round of Kronenbergs, which arrived promptly, along with some laminated menus, all frayed and dirty. 

Using the international language of mime, we indicated that we were just happy for a beer but our stern waiter snapped back in crisp English, saying that if we were going to drink, we would have to eat. The steak and frites looked reasonable enough and so we ordered with more vigorous pointing and again, with surreal briskness, plates of meat and stringy chips were soon slammed down in front of us. The steaks themselves were fantastically huge, glistening with grill marks and eeking a gentle pool of blood. Being the strapping lads we were, we fell upon the meat with gusto, tearing into the slabs and devouring with the intensity of a pack of scabby hyenas. Then, whilst chewing on a fork, laden with pink flesh and looking down at the menu, one of the group, one of our props I think, asked the immortal question:

"What do you reckon this viande de cheval means under the steak?" 

Shrugs went up and the scraping of knives on plates continued until another member, a fly half probably, whispered under his breath:

“Er….I think it means horse meat.”

The silence that suddenly fell was deafening but the frozen postures and gaping mouths said it all. As rudimentary GCSE French started to filter back into our minds, chairs were urgently scraped back and at least three of the boys spat out their macerated meat into paper napkins; with pained, almost tearful expressions and child-like wails. The rest of us simply stared at the last remnants of the ‘steak’ on the table, looking all confused and surprised. Slowly, the truth dawned on us. We had all just committed a heinous crime; we had all just eaten Dobbin.

Thinking back, it certainly was a defining experience for me, eating horse and I have tried it several times since. I remember back then though, in that dodgy cafe feeling slightly shocked, guilty even but ultimately, the steak had tasted great; so really, what was the problem? 

Well the problem is that eating horse just doesn’t go down well in the UK. Being a nation of animal lovers, horses are often seen as pets. If you suggested to Mercedes down the paddock that her beloved Rosie would go down well on the barbecue, she would scream the place down and threaten to call her father so that he may blow your kneecaps off with a shotgun. 

People also still hold onto the venerated bond or partnership that we used to have with horses, after all they used to be, quite literally, the powerhouses of industry and farming. Horses at one time, where the principle means of livelihood. Shooting and eating your source of income 100 years ago makes as much sense as shooting your company’s managing director or client base today. You just wouldn’t do would you, however tempting.

And then there is the cultural or patriotic divide between the two old enemies. We, in the UK, eat beef. They, on the continent (namely France), eat horse. We, are an island nation wot won two World Wars and the World Cup in 1966. Over the channel, they are a load of greasy, smelly surrender monkeys who still live in the dark ages. A fervent, tabloid and xenophobic viewpoint certainly but if we can assert any crumbling authority over our European neighbours, then by Jove, we will do it. (Although, interestingly; in good old Blighty we did used to eat a lot of horse meat, especially during both World Wars.)

Of course, the recent furore over the discovery of horse meat in burgers, pies and lasagnes does need thorough investigation. And that is an understatement. For the supermarkets, it is not so much about  questions raised over quality assurance but more like the whole issue of fraud that needs to be addressed. But with every report I read, I can’t help feeling that the clamour or taboo surrounding eating horse is overshadowing everything. After all, pig DNA was also found in the supply chain too. And not much has been made about that, despite the greater ethical and religious consequences for consumers.

Maybe it’s just time we got over ourselves with regards to horsemeat. If you are happy to eat beef, lamb, chicken, duck, venison, kangaroo, emu, moose, springbok, wild boar etc etc then why not eat horse. A large populace of the world already do.

And besides, have you ever been concerned about the meat the goes into your doner kebab on a Friday night? I know a fair few rugby players who couldn’t give a fig, I can tell you that.

But tell them horse meat may well be in that elephant leg that Stavros has just sliced up? Well……….