Britain

Cottage Crumble

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Cottage Pie must be high on the list of dishes most synonymous  with British cuisine – up there with fish and chips, roast beef, hot pots and pies. It is also a dish that you might think of serving on a cold winter’s night, when deeply satisfying comfort food is the order of the day.

To add a little more paz-zaz to what can sometimes be a bland dish, I like to ‘jazz’ my recipe up with a few extra ingredients, a ‘glug’ of sherry and a cheesy crumble top. With the addition of various cottage-garden vegetables and a potato and butternut squash mash, it’s packed with natural goodness and positively zings with flavour!

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Minced beef and pork with sliced carrots, leeks and cabbage cooked with a ‘glug’ of sherry!

 

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Crumble the salty biscuits (Tuc or Ritz)!

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Mix the crumbled biscuits with softened butter. Grate the Cheddar cheese and combine together.

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Mash the potato and butternut squash. Spoon on top of the meat mixture and add the biscuit and cheese crumble. Sprinkle with dried oregano. Bake and serve!

 

 

Cottage Crumble

Prep Time: 30 Mins Cooking Time: 1 Hour Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 800g of potatoes for mashing
  • 300g of butternut squash, cubed for mashing
  • a generous knob of butter for the mash
  • full fat milk for the mash
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 to 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 600 to 800g of minced meat (as you wish – pork or beef or a mix)
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • half a small cabbage, shredded
  • 2 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 cup of medium or sweet sherry
  • 380/390g tomato puree (passata) 
  • 60/70g of ‘Tuc’ or ‘Ritz’ biscuits
  • Grated Cheddar cheese or similar
  • 50/60g Butter, softened to mix with the crumbed biscuits
  • Dried Oregano, to sprinkle on top

Directions:

  1. MAKES 4 GENEROUS PORTIONS
  2. Peel the potatoes and butternut squash and cut into chunks. Place in a pan of salted boiling water.
  3. When the potatoes/butternut squash are soft, mash with butter and milk, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. In a large pan, add the olive oil, the carrots, leeks and cabbage. Salt and pepper.
  5. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the minced meat and combine together.
  6. Add the sherry and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and simmer to cook through.
  7. Place the meat mixture in and oven dish and top with the mashed potatoes/butternut squash.
  8. Sprinkle over the cheese crumble topping and finish with a shake of dried oregano.
  9. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade (350 degrees fahrenheit)

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Pie Time! Chicken & Vegetables cooked with Cider & Cream

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There is nothing more warming and satisfying, on a winter’s day, than a homemade pie filled with freshly prepared ingredients. I enjoy making pies and pastry and find it quite therapeutic. I like to experiment with different fillings, giving vent to my creative side and also like to have fun with pastry decorations. One of the pies, pictured here, I made for a friend’s anniversary and delivered it with a candle which is a great gift for anyone preferring savoury to sweet. In preparation for an intensive pie-making week, in aid of the church Christmas Bazaar next Saturday, I will be making several varieties, such as – salmon and leek – beef, Port and cranberry and turkey, ham and chestnut. Recipes to be posted as I create them!

Before I get to the recipe for this post, just a word or two about shortcrust pastry and the frustrations that I have encountered with it recently. I came to pastry and pie making relatively late in life as, alas, I did not learn any culinary skills at the knee of my mother or grandmother. What I do remember of my grandmother’s food (on visits back from Africa), is unquestionably grim – spam fritters with baked beans and to drink, dandelion and burdock. My mother, who clearly inherited this disability and never having the need or desire to cook herself, fed us on factory made concoctions that were often inedible, tasteless and I dread to think how many ‘e’ numbers we must have ingested. The effects of passive smoke are well known. There should be equal concern for children regarding passive food!! Like many things that are denied, they become more alluring with the advent of freedom and so, my brother and I learnt to cook creatively. Firstly, out of necessity and secondly, because we both developed a ‘taste’ for proper food having experienced such deprivation during our childhood years. Sympathy not required – I’ve made up for it since!

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Pastry made and pie filled. A good coating of egg wash and into the oven for 25 minutes at 190 degrees centigrade.

All that said, back to the subject of pastry. I was taught to make pastry, of various kinds, by a very good friend and pastry chef (you know who you are), who was generous enough to share some of her knowledge with me. To date, I have followed her recipe precisely and it has given excellent results allowing me to produce hundreds of pies. Just recently, however, I have had a few problems with the pastry being too ‘crumbly’ to work with. It has caused me huge consternation and frustration as I get very irritated when things don’t work as I want them to, when I believe there is no reason for them not to. Does that make sense? Anyway, having resorted to internet sources for a technical reason, I have discovered just how critical temperature and changing the brand of butter or flour can be, etc, etc. So, the long and short of all this is, that you have to find what works for you by sometimes tweaking the ingredients and measures. In my case, the flour and butter combination that I am currently using, needed a little more water than I had previously added. That small discovery has ensured that the rolling pin has no secondary use other than to roll out the dough!

Shortcrust pastry: 9oz / 270g plain flour; 5oz / 140g butter; 1 egg yolk, 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. I use a food processor because it’s quicker but you can ‘crumble’ the flour and butter by hand. Cut the cold butter into cubes and put this and the flour into the bowl of the food processor. Whizz until the ingredients combine to a crumbly texture. Add the yolk of an egg and a tablespoon of cold water. The mixture should come together in a clump. If this fails to happen, add a little more water until you have a workable dough that is not too dry and not to wet. I’m sorry that I can’t really explain it better than this – as I have experienced, it’s a learning process that just requires patience and practice. So …… with the dough rolled out to about a thickness of 3mm, line a pie dish of approximately 18cm diameter. Egg wash the edges of the pastry and fill the pie with the filling. Secure the pastry lid by crimping with the side of your thumb. Trim the pastry and egg wash the surface. Have fun with the decoration!

My recipe is based on filling a deep pie (5cm) to feed four or five hungry people. It’s a pie filled with chunks of meat and wholesome vegetables on which to feast. I don’t promote meagre helpings. I’m compensating for my childhood!!

Pie filling – Chicken & Vegetables in Cider & Cream

Ingredients:

  • 3 large chicken breasts, cubed (Pie for 4 people)
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 300ml cider
  • 200ml double cream

Directions:

  1. In a heavy based pan, add the olive oil.
  2. Add the leeks and carrots.
  3. Season well. I will leave the quantity up to you, as I tend to over salt!!
  4. Add the cider and chicken stock. Cook for 5 minutes to reduce the liquid.
  5. Add the chicken and cook gently for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the cream and combine together well.
  7. If the sauce has too much liquid, mix a little corn flour with cold water and add to the mixture to thicken.
  8. Allow to cool before filling the pie base.

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Sausages, Glorious Sausages! Pork, Cranberry and Port.

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In preparation for Christmas (yes, I am wonderfully organised this year), I have been experimenting with some sensational seasonal flavours. Using a traditional combination of cranberries and a generous ‘glug-glug’ of Ruby Port, I do believe I’ve struck gold. I served them for dinner last night on a bed of sweet potato mash and a gravy of red onions, cranberries and Port. The mergence of flavours was rich and deeply satisfying. I love sausages and being creative with the variations of flavour that one can achieve. All our sausages are ninety percent good quality pork meat. The other ten percent is made up of the crumb and spices. I don’t use any chemical additives or preservatives, so the sausages are what they should be and in terms of value, one of our ‘hearty’ sausages is worth at least two of the mass produced variety. Skins and sausages making kit all available from: www.weschenfelder.co.uk  ~ have a go yourself!

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Homemade sausages – Pork, Port and Cranberry. Why wait until Christmas?

For the gravy, slice a small red onion and fry gently in a pan with a little olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Finely chop a tablespoon of dried cranberries and add to the pan. Add a ‘glug’ of Ruby Port and simmer, add a splash of water, allowing the liquids to reduce a little. Add a knob of butter to thicken and achieve a glossy sheen.

I prefer to oven bake my sausages – they cook more evenly – for about 25 minutes at 180/190 degrees centigrade, turning once.

Sausages ~ Pork, Port & Cranberry

Prep Time: 1 Hour Cooking Time: 25 Mins

Ingredients:

  • Per kilo of minced pork (good fat content)
  • 15g salt
  • 2g black pepper
  • 2g white pepper
  • 2g dried sage
  • 10g chopped dried cranberries
  • 75g crumb/rusk
  • 100ml of cold water
  • 1 table spoon of Ruby Port 

Directions:

  1. Add the seasoning to the minced pork and mix together well.
  2. Add the cranberry and water. Mix well.
  3. When the meat texture changes to ‘smooth’, add the crumb/rusk and mix well again.
  4. Add the Port and mix in well.
  5. You are now ready to fill the skins. Follow the instructions, as per your machine!
  6. The preparation time is approximate. The skins should be soaked for 24 hours before filling.

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hubble, bubble ~ VEGETABLE BAKE with no trouble!

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With Witches flying through the night,

The streets are dark, there’s little light,

And goblins knocking on a moonlit door,

Let’s cook up a treat, we have grub galore!

Into the cauldron, boiling, sticky and black,

Entrails and poisons were pulled from her sack,

With a cackle and shriek that spooked the cat,

She mashed the brew and added more fat,

Hubble, bubble, toil  ~  let’s cook without trouble!!

I hope you liked my Halloween ditty!

You’ll be thankful to know that no entails or poisons are included in the wholesome ingredients of my seasonal vegetable bake! Just a few potions to ward off evil spirits and fortify the body against ghastly ghosts and ghouls. It is written, that the pumpkin became synonymous with ‘Halloween’, because many early Christian denominations encouraged abstinence from meat on All Hallows’ Eve. Pumpkins, due to their natural harvest, were readily available and once the flesh was scoped out, they were used as a lantern (known as a jack-o’lantern) and placed on tombs to represent the souls of the dead. Amongst many other scrumptious autumnal (Fall, for my American readers) ingredients, I have added copious amounts of garlic to fend off evil spirits and any passing witches on broomsticks and a good glug of Pernod. Now, I’ve used Pernod, because it’s the closest thing I had to Strega, an Italian liqueur with a taste of fennel. In Italian, Strega, means ‘witch’ and it is sometimes referred to as the drink of witches. So there you have it, a truly authentic dish with ‘witch’ to celebrate this All Hallows’ Eve! So, with my broomstick parked, let’s cook without trouble!

Vegetable Bake (Halloween)

Ingredients:

  • 300g of flesh from a pumpkin
  • 300g of butternut squash cubed
  • 300g of sweet potato cubed
  • 400g of potatoes cubed
  • 2 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 or 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (to your taste) – I won’t advise because I use too much!!
  • 100g smoked bacon bits
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp of dried oregano
  • A ‘glug’ of Pernod
  • 300ml of double cream
  • Fresh oregano to garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a LARGE heavy pan with lid (oven-proof), fry the onions and leeks.
  2. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Add the first four ingredients and mix to coat wight he oil. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and smoked bacon. Add the dried oregano. Fry together for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the Pernod and the vegetable stock. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the cream and mix together well.
  7. Put the lid on (make sure it fits well – if not, cover with foil and then seal with the lid).
  8. Place in an oven preheated to 150 degrees centigrade (300 degrees fahrenheit) for 90 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.
  9. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve!

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Pork & Sage Sausages with Caramelised Onion, Red Currant & Red Wine Gravy

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What a shame the torrential rains, rivalling those that fall in the tropics, didn’t arrive a few days earlier, thus preventing the rampant forest fire that devastated bush and woodland within a couple of kilometres of our home. Today, the heavens have opened here in the Algarve, lashing rain cascades with momentous force from the roof, hitting the terrace with loud resonant slaps as the gutters spill over, Niagara like, and the roads transmute into fast flowing foaming rivers. The clouds have descended over the hills of Monchique, obliterating them from our view. The atmosphere is damp, grey and clammy with a growing chilliness in the air –  driving my apetite towards thoughts of comfort food. What better excuse! It’s time to dust off the sausage making machine (speak persuasively to my husband who assists me with this task) and soak the natural pig skins in preparation. We have invited four of our neighbours to join us for dinner, so we need to make these sausages worthy of taking centre stage on the table.

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A view from our house – a forest fire burning into the night! Not relevant to sausage making, but I thought you might like to see it!

Charcuterie has fallen into my husband’s ‘department’. The equipment we use is heavy and cumbersome and I find the process functions better with two of us. We make up five kilo batches of sausages at a time, because we have a loyal following of friends who are always pleased to receive a packet or two! Good English style sausages are not often readily available here in Portugal, so the novelty value is to our advantage. For most domestic use, I would recommend starting with two kilos of meat which would produce about thirty-five deliciously plump sausages. The making of these lovelies is not a five minute job and the clean up process is laborious. It is also very important that this is carried out meticulously as raw pork can be a dangerous medium. Therefore, it falls, most definitely,  into my husband’s department, unaided if I can get away with it!

Weschenfelder supply all our charcuterie goods. They are based in the United Kingdom and offer an excellent service, supplying equipment, sausage skins, curing salts among many other things. Visit their site at www.weschenfelder.co.uk

Here is the making of our sausages in photographs, followed by the recipe. Have a go yourself – it’s fun and you can create your own recipes! Coming up to Christmas, we will be making some Pork, Port and Cranberry Sausages – watch this spot!

I served these succulent sausages with buttery mash potatoes, carrots (boiled with a little sugar in the water to enhance their natural sweetness) and caramelised onion, red currant and red wine gravy. A heart warming treat for any rainy day!

For the gravy – simply slice an onion into strips and pan-fry in a little olive oil and butter mixed. Allow to caramelise. Add salt and pepper and a cup of red wine. Simmer for a couple of minutes and add a tablespoon of red currant jelly. Let the gravy reduce. I add a teaspoon of butter to thicken and give the juices a glaze. Taste at all times and adjust (salt and pepper) to suit your taste. Pour over generously.  Gravy heaven!!

 

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We buy a cut of pork (belly/rib)with sufficient fat content to give the sausages the correct consistency, removing the bones and the grizzle, alternatively you can buy ready minced pork, but ensure that it has not had soya or breadcrumb already added to bulk it out! Below mincing the meat and adding the ingredients: Per kilo – 15g salt, 2g white pepper, 2g black pepper, 2g dried sage, 100g breadcrumb, 100ml of water IMG_1421 IMG_1424

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Place the minced pork in the mixing bowl with the ingredients.

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Mix together.

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Feed the soaked skins onto the nozzle of the sausage maker. A fiddly job!

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Filling the skins evenly.

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Fill the cylinder of the sausage maker with the meat mixture and attach the nozzle with the skins.

 

Pork & Sage Sausages

Prep Time: 1 Hour 30 Mins Cooking Time: 30 Mins

Ingredients:

  • Per kilo of minced pork
  • 15g salt
  • 2g black pepper
  • 2g white pepper
  • 2g dried sage
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 100ml water

Directions:

  1. If you buy the pork pre minced, I would suggest a cut with sufficient fat to give the sausages moisture and a good texture. The meat surrounding the ribs is good, but unless you are a practised butcher, it is a fiddly and lengthy process to carefully remove the bone and any sinew or grizzle. If you buy ready minced pork, it is important to ensure that it has a good fat content and not contain soya or crumb. Buying ready mince certainly cuts down the time element!
  2. We use natural hog casings for the skins, but man-made ones are also available. Soak the skins for about 24 hours.
  3. Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add the ingredients. Combine together thoroughly.
  4. Load the meat mixture into the cylinder of your sausage maker.
  5. Thread the skins onto the nozzle. Weschenfelder sell skins that are pre-spooled and easier to use.
  6. By turning the handle slowly the meat flows evenly into the skins. Sometimes, it is easier to have one person turning the handle while the other uses both hands to guide the flow of the skin and ensure the meat fills evenly.
  7. Once you have a long ‘snake’ of skins evenly filled with meat, twist the first sausage a couple of times at about 12cm lengths. Tying them in the traditional butcher’s style, is a practised art and I suggest referring to the internet to fine tune this skill. We cheat! Just twist the sausages alternatively clock and anti-clockwise.
  8. It’s also better to leave the sausages in the fridge for a few hours before cooking, as it helps to dry the skins.
  9. I bake my sausages in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade or 350 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes, turning once. Prick the skins first.

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Home Cured Ham

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Producing home cured ham is incredibly easy to do and so much better than mass produced shop-bought products. To begin with, there are no unpleasant ‘E’ numbers to upset your body’s natural balance or excess water to bulk out the weight and, in so doing, raise the price. Home cured ham simply tastes much better and it’s a fun thing to do.

I buy all my charcuterie products from Weschenfelder in the UK. They are easy to deal with and, if like me, you are living outside the United Kingdom, they will send an order through the mail system for a most reasonable cost. Visit their site at: www.weschenfelder.co.uk

From my butcher, I selected a fresh loin of pork – about two kilos in weight. The meat was submerged in a solution made up with Weschenfelder’s Quick Cure Salts and I added rosemary, bay leaves and black peppercorns to enhance the flavour. The meat was turned daily for four days. At the end of this period, I simmered the meat in a water bath for about an hour. Using a meat thermometer, I checked the temperature until the loin reached 71 degrees centigrade.

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Absolutely delicious! Home cured ham!!

Allow the ham to cool before slicing and tasting!! It was succulent with a hint of sweetness and beats any mass produced ‘cardboard’ ham bought in a supermarket.

 


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Leg of Lamb, slow roasted with a Ruby Port and Red Currant Sauce

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Lamb is always a treat, especially so here in Portugal as imported meat is quite expensive; but I was fortunate enough to stumble across a fresh plump looking leg in a local butcher’s shop that didn’t break the bank so I couldn’t resist. I normally avoid Portuguese lamb as it often seems scrawny and lacking in fat. Well, I suppose I would be if my main source of fodder had to be scavenged from the rocky and sun burnt pastures that are typical of the Algarve hinterland. The leg of lamb that I caught sight of, was an Irish import, reared where lush green grass is luxuriant and baby lambs frolic carelessly unaware of the fate that awaits them! Portuguese lambs are not afforded this blithe existence, prior to ending up on the butcher’s block, later to be served as tough, tasteless mutton.

My lusciously lovely lamb was destined for a long slow cook, spiked with garlic, in Portuguese Ruby Port – the wine and water bath (300ml Port and 300ml water) accompanied by sprigs of rosemary and thyme. The liquid should be enough to provide a depth of about 300mm.

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Leg of lamb rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, spiked with garlic in a bath of Ruby Port/water and flavoured with sprigs of rosemary and thyme.

Once the lamb is dressed to roast slowly in the oven – 150 degrees centigrade for three hours – cover the dish tightly with aluminium foil.

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Beautifully tender lamb which carves easily, full of sweet rich flavour.

I served the lamb with roasted potatoes and carrots, dressed with a generous pouring of the Port and redcurrant sauce. The ‘dollop’ of butter is, of course, optional but irresistible!!

 

Ruby Port and Redcurrant Sauce

Prep Time: 10 Mins Cooking Time: 30 Mins Total Time: 40 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 200/250 ml of ruby Port (If you have used a Port and water mixture in which to slow roast your lamb, then strain and use this liquid).
  • 2 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • a knob of butter
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. If using the cooking juices from the lamb (half Port and half water), strain the liquid into a saucepan. I have a separating jug which is a great tool to separate the fat/oil from the liquid.
  2. If starting from scratch, pour the Port into a saucepan, add the crushed garlic and redcurrant jelly. On a gentle heat simmer until the jelly has dissolved. Add the rosemary and salt/pepper to taste.
  3. If using the roasting liquids, add an extra splash of the Port, then follow as the step above.
  4. Simmer to reduce the liquid. Remove the rosemary sprigs.
  5. Taste the sauce and adjust if necessary to add a splash of water, more salt or pepper.
  6. Add a good knob of butter and continue to simmer the sauce – this will make the sauce thicken and give it a glossy texture.

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