Saturday, 29 June 2013

Smoked Chickums

When it gets really hot, and we're pushing about 106 here today, most people forgo cooking altogether, which I understand. But I still think cooking outside is a viable option. Not the last minute BBQ, but something close. If you spatch a chicken and just set it to smoke for a couple of hours, do it way ahead, it takes on a lovely hue. The seasoning is just salt, pepper and thyme. This is over oak. Then just chill it, and when dinner comes around you have something ready to go. Shred it, with a little lime and chili on a tortilla or good sturdy roll. Or a dribble of soy and sesame on top of cold noodles. This is good stuff.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Kurobuta, Berkshire Lomo?

I don't know why I found something labeled kurobuta in my local Italian grocery. Nor do I mind that it's actually a Berkshire pig, isn't it? I didn't ask who raised it, what its name was, whether it was massaged, fed beer, given daily trips to the park to play fetch or was lovingly kissed my a young girl named Missy. But I think he must have been. It is a loin but with some other part there, beyond the white stripe. All the better. The loin part as you can see is pink and soft and the other dark and chewy. Quite sweet with a pronounced bacterial sourness.  Here's how to do it: Take a thick 5 or 6 inch piece of loin and parts proximate. Spinkle happily with salt, distress with instacure #2, the slightest pinch. Then pepper, mustard seed, juniper crushed, whatever you like. Bay too. Put in a ziplock and seal and refrigerate for a week, turning every day. Then tie up and hang naked somewhere cool, breezy and 55 degrees for a month. Next to bastirma seems to have been fortuitious, because there is a faint aroma of fenugreek. Slicing proved tricky. The first cut is the deepest. So these pictured here were a bit thick. I put it on the manual slicer and they shredded a bit but are thin, light and aethereal. So glad I had my pal Kristine here by chance to eat it with me!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

SUGAR - the food dept.'s Sally Courtney revamps the humble doughnut and creates a variety of different recipes for every sweet tooth. Not to name any names, but our food photographer adores doughnuts and you will too!


Cinnamon sugar churros with a bitter sweet chocolate sauce
Traditionally served for breakfast these Spanish doughnuts are served with a bitter sweet chocolate sauce.
Makes approximately 30.

• 1¼ cups water   
• 125g butter
• 1¼ cups plain flour
4 eggs
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place the water and butter into a saucepan and heat over a low heat until the butter melts.
2. Increase the heat and bring to a rapid boil, add the flour and stir continuously until the batter comes away from the saucepan and becomes to a ball. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. Turn the dough into the bowl of an electric mixer and allow to cool for a few minutes while you break the eggs into a jug and whisk. With the mixer running gradually add the eggs in 4 lots and beat well between each addition.
4. Place the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star pipe and set aside.
5. Combine the caster sugar and cinnamon on a tray and toss to combine, set aside.
6. Heat the oil to 180 C (360F). Hold the piping bag over the hot oil and pipe 10cm lengths of dough into the oil. Cut the dough from the piping bag with a pair of scissors, being careful to not let the dough fall from a height and splash the oil.  Cook 3-4 churros at a time, for 3-4 minutes until golden. Gently roll around in the oil to make sure they are golden on all sides.
7. Using a slotted spoon lift the churros from the hot oil, drain on absorbent paper and then while still hot toss in the cinnamon sugar.
8. Serve hot with the Bittersweet chocolate sauce.

Bittersweet chocolate sauce
Makes 1½ cups.

100g bitter sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
200ml double cream
2 tablespoons liquid glucose

1. Place the chocolate in a bowl and set aside
2. Combine the cream and glucose in a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat until simmering. Pour over the chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Serve warm with churros.

Mini pecan crumble doughnuts with lemon glaze
You will need an uber cute doughnut mould for this recipe. Petrina picked up on for the food dept. whilst she was on holiday in Japan. This recipe uses a simple cake/muffin style batter that you can pipe on top of the crumble mixture, then bake and drizzle with lemon glaze. Yum!!!

½ cup pecans, finely chopped
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
40g chilled butter, cut into a small dice
1¾ cups self-raising flour
¼ cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 free range egg, lightly beaten
extra, 125g butter, melted
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 180C (360F).  Combine the pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a mixing bowl and rub together with your fingertips to make the pecan crumble.
2. Sprinkle approximately 1 teaspoon of the crumble mixture into the base of the greased doughnut moulds.
3. Combine flour, sugar and mixed spice in a bowl.
4. Combine the egg, extra butter and buttermilk in a jug and gently fold into the dry ingredients, do not over mix, a few small lumps are ok. Carefully spoon into a large piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle.
5. Pipe the batter into each doughnut mould until 2/3 full. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cooked when tested.
6. Place the icing sugar into a small mixing bowl, add the lemon juice and mix until smooth. It should be the consistency of pouring cream. If needed add more icing sugar or lemon juice to get it to the right consistency.
7. Once cooked remove the doughnuts from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out. Turn the doughnuts over so the crumble is on the top and drizzle while warm with the lemon glaze.

Almond cruller with orange blossom glaze
From the otherside of the world, this doughnut can be found across Europe as well as parts of the USA. Cruller meaning ‘to curl’ can be formed into sticks or rings, by hand or piped. This recipes uses a choux pastry that is piped into rings, topped with almonds and then fried until golden and light, then dipped in a fragrant orange blossom glaze.
Makes approximately 20.

1¼ cups water
125g butter
1¼ cups flour
4 eggs
½ cup slivered almonds
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1 quantity Orange blossom glaze

1. Place the water and butter into a saucepan and heat over a low heat until the butter melts.
2. Increase the heat and bring to a rapid boil, add the flour and stir continuously until the batter comes away from the saucepan and becomes a ball. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. Turn the dough into the bowl of an electric mixer and allow to cool for a few minutes while you break the eggs into a jug and whisk.
With the mixer running gradually add the eggs in 4 lots and beat well between each addition, until the dough is glossy.
4. Place the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star pipe and set aside.
Line an oven tray with baking paper. Pipe a ring of dough approximately 10cm across, sprinkle with the slivered almonds and place into the freezer for 30 minutes. This makes the dough firm and easy to handle.
5. Heat the vegetable oil to 180 C (360F). Carefully lower the crullers into the oil, almond side down, cook for 1-2 minutes on the first side and then turn and cook for another 1-2 minutes until golden.
6. Drain on absorbent paper. While still warm dip the crullers into the glaze and drain on a cake cooler.
Serve once icing has set, these are best eaten the day they are made.

Orange blossom glaze

2½ cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
1½ tablespoons orange blossom water

1. Place the sifted icing sugar into a bowl and set aside.
2. Combine the milk and orange blossom water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
3. Pour into the icing sugar and whisk to combine. The glaze should be a drizzling consistency. Use as required.

Chocolate molten doughnut balls
Are you a chocoholic? Then this is the doughnut for you, they are chocolate heaven.
Makes approximately 12-14 balls.

1¾ cups plain flour
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup raw sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 free range egg                  
100 bitter sweet chocolate, cut into ½ cm cubes
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
extra, ¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup icing sugar

1. Place the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer, mix to combine.
2. Add the milk, butter and egg and beat until it just comes together into a ball. Roll out the dough between lightly floured baking paper until 1cm thick.
3. Using a 6cm cutter, cut rounds. Reroll the dough and continue to cut rounds.
4. Place a cube of chocolate into the centre of each round of dough and pinch together to enclose the chocolate, roll into a ball shape and place onto a lined tray until ready to fry.
5. Heat oil in a large open pot or wok to 180C (360F). Carefully lower a few of the balls at a time into the hot oil and cook for 2-3 minutes, turning so that the doughnuts cook evenly.
6. Using a slotted spoon lift the doughnuts from the hot oil and drain on absorbent paper.
7. Combine the extra cocoa and icing sugar in a bowl and toss the warm doughnut balls in the icing sugar mixture and serve immediately.

Thank you!
If you liked the plates and bowls in this feature you will love the, 
the food dept. would like to thank the gang for supplying us with their Flip Flop ceramics for our shoot. Please check out the forty nine website and stay tuned for the launch of their shop, they already have 4 customers in the food dept.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Richard Bertinet's Somerset Cider Bread

When it comes to baking bread, I must admit that I have become rather lazy. I used to be quite into it, particularly with regards to sourdough. I used to have a starter called Veronica and at first, the relationship was quite intense, enthusiastic and bubbly; as you might expect from an early courtship. Many happy days were spent simply mulling and lounging around the kitchen in the warm, waiting for the slow rise under cotton sheets in feverish expectation of a tangy hit later in the day. Her crisp crust was quite exquisite too. Then sadly, other commitments got in the way. Soon, the thrill was gone, my eyes wavered and began to look around in other directions. We tried counselling a few times via the unnecessary application of a teaspoon and a hefty dose of flour and water which sparked a revival each time but it was always short lived. She was too needy and I didn't have the time to give.

Veronica left me. Blackened, musty and deep in shame. The ignominy of watching her seep slowly, downwards through the plughole is something that will probably stay with me forever but you have to move on, don't you. Just like Adele did, in that album of hers.

At the risk of sparking and evoking some damning ire, I have to say that it was all Dan Lepard's fault. He turned my head with his 'no-knead' technique which has enabled me to slam out loaves of bread with little care or thought; bang, just like that. 

"What's that you say my darling? We have nothing to breakfast on tomorrow, the shops have shut and the children will starve in the morning? Have no fear, we still have time, for we have flour, water, salt and yeast! Too long? Mwahahahaha! Watch my precious, watch what I can create with a vigorous ten second pumping using the merest of my hands! Switch that oven on!"

Yes, if there is one thing that reduces me to ranting, raving, delusional demi-god, it is the no-knead technique (which OK, does need a teenie bit of kneading) and as such, this is singularly the only type of bread that I bake at home now. However, when I consider the abundant variety of recipes and methods that exist for this fundamental staple, I do realise that I am selling myself short. So recently, I decided to dip my toe back into the leavening pool and this week I tried out something that was a bit more involved and time consuming than usual. Which was Richard Bertinet's Somerset cider bread.

Now, in terms of technique, Bertinet's approach to kneading is totally different to what I've become used to, insofar that it is a lot more energetic. Actually, when I first bought his book Dough, some time ago now, I recall watching the accompanying DVD and wondering if I had paid for some bizarre food-led exercise video. I had my feet up on the sofa, I had a beer in my hand and I distinctly remember thinking "Sod that for a game of soldiers." 

Basically, his guiding principle is to scoop up the dough (which at first resembles flabby porridge) with both hands and you raise it, stretch it, flip it and slap it back down on a flourless surface, all in one fluid motion. And you repeat this action over and over until the dough becomes silky and smooth. This video will give you more of an idea but essentially what he is trying to encourage is that you get as much air into the dough as possible. So yes, it's all very aerobic and looks like it all amounts to hard work, inducing beady foreheads and sweaty bum cracks and whatnot. However, once you get the hang of it, the method is relatively easy. And watching the mix transform from a glutinous mess into something that is quite pliable, buoyant and alive is quite magical, therapeutic even.

I had forgotten all about this part of making bread and this recipe, which calls for a ferment to deepen the flavour of the bread, certainly slows things down a bit and imbues a sense of steady, calm to proceedings. It has definitely kick started an old enthusiasm for baking. For in the fridge, there is now a pot of Veronica Mark II, skimmed off from a little bit of ferment left at the end. So we could be looking at a new dawn of experimenting with friendly bacteria (fingers crossed).

The only real dangerous part of this re-ignited interest is the potential for new levels of gluttony. Once baked, the loaves were probably only allowed about 10 minutes of cooling before I smote one in half with a serrated knife and slathered it with a pack of butter. It was delicious but if I keep this up, then the conquences for my health could be serious.

Perhaps Richard Bertinet could bring out a proper exercise video. Rather than use kettle bells or fancy pieces of elastic, perhaps the slapping and stretching of huge lumps of dough could form the basis for a funky and original calisthenic routine. It's just an idea.

Somerset Cider Bread 
(the measurements for this recipe have been adjusted from the book, to make two loaves instead of four, because four would be ridiculous)



200g strong white flour

50g dark rye flour

5g yeast

5g salt

175g water

Main bread mix

5g yeast

375g strong white flour

125g dark rye flour

10g salt

300g good quality cider

flour for dusting


First make your ferment by mixing the initial ingredients together using the slap and tickle method as seen in the video and then leave covered in a floured bowl, in a quiet corner of the kitchen for about 6 hours.

It should go from this

Then using a scraper, scoop out the ferment from it's container into another bowl, all in one piece, and add the rest of the ingredients and knead using the slap and tickle method again (refer to video). Shape the dough into a ball, put into a lightly floured bowl, cover with a tea towel and rest for 45 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and reshape into a ball, place it back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 45 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto your lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Lightly flour another tea towel. Mould the balls of dough into loaves and place them onto the tea towel, making a fold in the fabric between them to stop them touching when they rise. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 1 and half hours, or until they have nearly doubled in volume.

Turn the loaves over, place on a peel or flat-edged baking tray and make on cut lengthways along the top with a razor blade or sharp knife. Mist the inside of your preheated oven with a water spray and then slide the loaves onto the baking stone or tray. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200C, and bake for about 35 minutes until well coloured. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the base with your finger. 

Remove and cool on a wire rack.

They should look like this. Rustic, yet still very handsome
And this is what I had left over to make Veronica Mark II

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Pickled Black Walnut

If you live in Stockfish CA, you probably know the levee along the Calaveras River that runs through the University. I was riding my bike for an eye exam a few weeks ago and passed the stand of walnuts before you get to the I-5 underpass. Did you realize that one set is English, a.k.a. Persian Walnuts and the other Black Walnuts? I know you can pickle the former, but the latter? Well, here's a shot.

First I have to confess, if you look at my recipe for pickled walnuts in the Lost Arts, I think I left out something that might be important. I just poked them with holes and went right into the pickle. They were good, but I think the proper way to do it is to brine for a week, change the water and brine for another, then leave them out until they turn black (which is what you see here) and then go into the pickle. This one was half brine, half vinegar with extraneous spices and some sugar. It should be good. The only thing I'm wondering is if the shells inside will be edible. I passed a knife through, as you can see here, but certainly not as soft as regular walnuts. I also did a batch of those, and poked with pins. THIS time with rubber gloves on! I'll share the after photos in a couple of months, when the weather gets cooler.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Preserved Lemon

Preserved lemon and Moshi Moshi flask in the background
At some stage in my life, someone must have come up and tapped me on the shoulder and started extolling the virtues of preserved lemons. I don't know when, I don't know where and I don't know how. But someone, at some point in time, must have whispered into my shell-like about the benefits of pickling these yellow, ellipsoidal, citric fruits at home. I am sure of this. And I am sure that I listened quite intently, spellbound, mesmerised even, at what my fellow advisor had to say on the matter.

Perhaps the scenario when something like this:

"Yeah right, cos like preserving yer own lemons, well you can't beat it mate. I tell ya, for about five years...maybe six *burp* I was buying me own.... off the shelf, you know and well....they were alright but they just didn't quite cut the mustard, you know what I mean? They didn't 'ave that kick I was looking for, not quite the same as the sorta shit that goes into a proper good, decent, diamond tagine. Like the sort you might find in the ol' El-Fnna, yeah? You got me? Nah? OK, well look, do yourself a favour mate, grab a load of lemons. Not waxed! No facking wax! OK? Make a liddle biddy criss-cross of a slit in the top of one of your lemons and stuff it, stuff with salt and then throw it a jar, with a load more salt. Salt and some other shit. Coriander seed, bay leaf, chillies, cinnamon sticks....*burp*...go on, throw it in, throw it all in and then forget abahht it. Don't worry abahht it at all. Leave it in a cupboard and go for a walk somewhere. Just......just don' worry abahht it. And then......and then my sunshine, you can go back.... weeks..... months...... years later. And you can find that jar of yours and then you can prise that jar open and BOOM! Bloody hell, what 'ave you got? Preserved facking lemons that's what."

And you know, after that poetic soliloquy, I probably bought the guy a pint, shook his hand and on the way home, picked up a huge bag of lemons from Londis and carried out his instructions to a tee; repeating his mantra of "Boom! Preserved facking lemons!" With arms aloft. I probably made quite a mess later that evening, scattering aromatics and sea-crystals across the floor. I probably caused a huge clatter, throwing bits of expensive, unused toot out of the expensive unused toot cupboard. All in order to house these new jars of lemons. Jars that would remain untouched for some time, left to slowly macerate, embalm and steep. I probably fell asleep on the cold, tiled floor and then probably woke at some ungodly hour, all disorientated and confused, before making it upstairs with belt buckle loose and bare buttocks flapping in the wind.

These are all probables and whether you believe them or not is up to you. Some of the above is make believe, I'll admit that. Some, ahem, is not. However, the cast iron truth is that I stumbled across some preserved lemons the other day, which had obviously been lurking deep within the dark for some time and I honestly can't remember when I set about the task of 'immortalising' them. They were obviously part of some previous project, that shamefully didn't pique my interest for long enough. But I am glad that I found them though because it led to one of those happy occurrences when something unplanned and unexpected happens. Some chicken thighs were sitting in the fridge, awaiting their final destination and whilst they are great to enjoy on their own, (unadulterated thigh meat, dark and succulent doesn't need that much jazzing up in my opinion) I quite did fancy trying out something quite different. So after a quick rustle in the cupboards, bingo, a fortuitous solution was found.

Admittedly, I did seek further consultation from other voices (other than the ones in my head) across the internethighwayweb and Cookwitch, with her Greek sensibilities, suggested simply roasting the chicken thighs with the preserved lemon, along with garlic, thyme and olives. It was an inspired idea so I went with it. Except that I threw in some extra bay leaves in for good measure, to put my own stamp on things. "Oh yaah, yaah, it defo needs the bay."

And as with most 'one-pot, let's throw everything in and see what happens' dishes, it was very good.
It really is amazing actually, the difference you get from the intensity of flavour. A squeeze of a lemon used as a light, fresh touch doesn't really compare with the feral hit of preserved lemon, which is all heavy and condense but the one thing I did learn is that when it comes to these squalid, squashy objects of beauty, less can sometimes mean more. I used one whole flaccid, alien egg-like lemon sac for about 12 thighs when half would have done. And it could have done with a rinse to honest, just a quick splash under a cold tap to get rid of the salty residue, just to save the kidneys. However, overall, the preserved lemon did transform the already handsome chicken thigh into something altogether different and special and I plan on using up my supply quite quickly. In order of course to make plenty more, to try out with lots of other dishes. After all, preserved lemons are my new favourite thing. And this time, I won't fall asleep on the job.

Flaccid, alien egg
Chicken thighs before

Chicken thighs after

Roast chicken thigh, preserved lemon, garlic, olive and thyme (not forgetting bay leaf) with cous cous, aubergine, peppers and coriander leaf

Another photo of what I said for the photo above

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Green Sauce

Fridge cleaning is a tedious yet necessary chore. As is oven cleaning. And floor cleaning. And washing up and wiping down. And all that horlicks. In fact, let's face it, it's all boring and some days would be better spent by either ignoring the tomato ketchup stains on the ceiling altogether. Or by simply starting some conflagration, good and proper, to purge the kitchen of all its sins and to start afresh. Out of the ashes and all that. The latter suggestion would probably have an impact your home insurance premiums though, so it's not probably not a good idea. Some days though, I do sort of wish that I had some form of OCD so that I could attack things inanely and without prejudice, just to get the job done, albeit over and over again. Instead, cleaning is just painful, another thing to do, in my already busy life.

Coming back to fridge ablutions for second though, it is sort of important to make sure that your cooleratory (sic) system is kept spic and span, for fear of encouraging lurgies, mould and 'matter'. I read in the news only yesterday that something like 80% of households in the UK admitted to cleaning their fridges just once a year, which is totally believable. I have seen some terrible examples in my lifetime. Incubators they should be called, not refrigerators. Propagators of exotic lifeforms. Seething after cross-contamination. Sources of bum gravy at best, death at worst. Email me and I will tell you which particular curry house on Leytonstone High Street to avoid. But that's a restaurant and not a house, so I have gone a bit off topic there. The important point is that you should really try and keep your fridge clean, no matter what.

So yes, I regularly take out the shelves and boxes and whatnot from our fridge and get them a good scrub in hot soap and water, I am proud to say. Not forgetting scooping and skirting in and around the walls of the inner white compartment with a fresh dishcloth; taking a moment or two whilst my head is stuck inside with the light on, to pretend that I am in some 60's sci-fi movie. And then everything goes back, stacked neat and tidy and all the produce goes back in. This is also a good moment to take stock of what was actually in the fridge in the first place. We are pretty good at making sure that nothing goes to waste (he says all pious and smug) but occasionally a garlic clove is found, sprouting a tall green antennae. Or a single pot of yoghurt, a week out of date, normally vanilla or something equally bland, which gets thrown away.

I do however take a different view with regards to the condiment shelf. The top shelf that gets laden with jars of jams and pickles and chutneys and mustard's and capers and olives and any other thing that you can imagine existing in a jar. You know the one. I flatly refuse to chuck any of them away for they are preserves and by the rules of preservation, they can exist in stasis forever and ever and ever. Yet really of course, they can't. Oxygen and bacteria will always win eventually, no matter how much sugar and salt has been imbued. That doesn't mean that I haven't screamed at the top of my throat before, after discovering that a 5 year old plastic ramekin of Patum Peperium's Gentleman's Relish has been wantonly tossed aside.

As I am in the habit lately of making lots of green sauce, or salsa verde if feeling all sexy and continental, there is normally a jar of the stuff on the top shelf too. Because it is gorgeous. Take any regular, mundane dish and drizzle a spoonful of this piquant, herby liquor over the top and it will be transformed. Sausages and mash, bang! Grilled mackerel, wham! Stirred into chicken soup, kajawowkerplunkapow! Recipes are pretty much the same throughout. Parsley, mint, basil, garlic, anchovy, capers, dijon mustard, wine vinegar or lemon juice, seasoning and a generous glug of good olive oil. That's green sauce in a nut shell. Though for more accurate quantities it is always helpful to refer to St Nige or Jamie and a little goes long way. So once whizzed up, or chopped up rather, this is something that you need to take your time over with a nice sharp knife and board, I often find that I have loads left over. So onto the top shelf it goes, topped and sealed with some more olive oil to be left indefinitely. Alright, a week.

I suspect the last batch I made definitely older than a week though, especially after spooning a tonne of sauce onto a plain brown bap with ham for lunch. I didn't die or suffer from some interminable squits but boy, the sauce was funky. The emulsification of flavours over time had developed into something extraordinarily pungent and powerful. So much so, that every time I breathed, I could feel my nostril hairs singe. And my eyebrows too. Which is all fine and dandy, if you can handle it, but I am acting in an up and coming play soon see and let's just say that I have to execute some passionate onstage kissing. Rehearsals later that day were interesting to say the least. My opposing actresses (I get to kiss two, what a cad) kept fainting after every embrace. And that was never in the script.

Suppose I better buy some mints. Or throw the jar away.