Friday 28 December 2012

Shortloin of Beef

I am not a fan of turkey, it's all well and good in a sandwich or a pie or something but as the centrepiece of the meal of the year then just no and don't play the 'it's traditional' card either, it's not. Have a goose if you want to be traditional. Personally I like to have something a little tastier and this year I was drawn to the shortloin of beef.

The shortloin, is arguably the finest part of the noble cow, the crowning glory. it consists of the spine down the centre with the Fillet on one side and the Sirloin on the other, it is superb.

To cook this I turned to the balded headed genius/nutcase himself with the recipe in his excellent book Heston at Home.

I say recipe, its barely that as there is little effort involved apart from browning the outside at the start which takes some effort depending on the size you bought, ours barely fit in the frying pan.

The meat is then slow roasted and I mean slow roasted for the best part of 6 hours at 60 degrees Celsius. yes, 60 degrees, I've had baths hotter than that.

What this does to the meat is nothing sort of magical, the outside drys up and forms a wonderful seasoned crust but the inside stays moist to the point all the juice gushes out like a waterfall when it's done (collect it and pour it straight into the gravy). The meat cuts like butter because it's been gently warmed and not been blasted with heat. This also allows precision to cook it how you like from 45C (blue) where the cow is still walking round the field to 70C (well done) where you should be eating turkey if you cook it like this. I opted for 55C which is medium rare.

Cooking this way is stressful, not due to the work load but the stress of watching a thermometer creep up degree after degree when all you want to do is get on with eating it, the last couple of degrees I don't think I took my eyes off it.

I can't imagine cooking a joint in any other way after this. Heston, I salute you.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Rice Pudding Pork

The Ghost of Christmas Past is the theme of Random Recipes at Belleau Kitchen this month. Well to be more precise it's last years recipe books that RR participants received and now have to pick from.

For me, I received two weighty tomes in the form of River Cottage Fish and River Cottage Meat. With a trusty flip of a coin River Cottage Meat won. So far so good. I had visions of lovely roasts, maybe a side of ribs when I flicked randomly through the book.

The recipe I landed on was Rice Pudding Pork....right.....

must not turn the page....will might be nice...swears violently in the direction of Belleau Cottage....sighs...accepts the inevitable...

Reading the recipe, it didn't seem too bad, no actual rice pudding involved and the recipe is based on a traditional Italian dish of braising pork in milk, fellow food blogger Clare at Feast and Glory made a version using Garlic and Rosemary which turned out very tasty by the sound of it. This version uses bay and thyme. It also uses brown sugar and nutmeg to give it hints of a rice pudding.

The recipe is fairly simple:

Rice Pudding Pork
2-2.5 Pork loin, rolled and boned.
gratings of fresh nutmeg
olive oil
50g butter
1-1.5 litres whole milk, hot
2 tsp brown sugar
3-4 bay leaves, fresh if possible
3 sprigs of thyme
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper

Season the pork with salt and pepper and grate over nutmeg.
Heat the oil in a pan and sear the pork on all sides until nicely browned.
Leave in the pan.
Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough for the pork, stir in a third of the hot milk and sugar.
Place the pork in the pan and pour over the remainder of the milk.
Add the bay, thyme and lemon a couple more gratings of nutmeg and bring to barely a simmer.
Very gently simmer for about 1 and a half to two hours.
Allow the pork to rest out of the pan and serve with the sauce and the curdles of milk from the pan.

Well that's not half bad actually, soft very slightly milky pork in a slightly too sweet sauce with hints of thyme and nutmeg. The curdles of milk are very very good, soft and creamy. If I were to do this again I would try it with garlic and rosemary as it sounds more up my street and hopefully not as sweet.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

An Adventure in Bread

I cannot recall the last time I made a loaf of bread, in fact I'm almost positive I've never made one properly before.

Sure I have made the odd pizza dough but there is no substitute for taking the time to produce a fresh loaf from combining the ingredients into a soft, slightly sticky kneading it so it is stretchy and waiting (impatiently) for it to rise and commence its quest to leave the bowl and take over the kitchen ... to watching it bake in the oven, filling the kitchen with that lovely fresh baked bread aroma and finally to eat it, still warm and soft with plenty of butter.

So I have decided to change all that and dive into the world of bread and have a look around, try out a few recipes, develop my own (currently lacking) knowledge and skills and to tell Dr Atkins etc... where they can shove their no carb diets.

To begin with I have started with the basic loaf recipes, to get into the swing of things regarding techniques, ingredients and also patience, I'll stop shouting at dough 'to get on with it' at some point.

There are many versions of this basic recipe, usually regarding techniques. Some people have no knead recipes, others like a good knead every now and again. I belong to the latter. I'm a bit of a traditionalist and like the kneading process of working the dough and stretching the gluten. I used a Paul Hollywood recipe for my first loaf which is available here and this is what happened:

Not too bad at all. I did like some of the tips that Hollywood suggests, I have heard them before but never put into practice such as using oil instead of flour on the work surface and proving bowl and the roasting tray of water in the bottom of the oven.

So happy with the first effort, I decided to adapt that recipe, sticking to the dry ingredient quantities but replacing the white flour with wholemeal flour, I also increased the liquid amount to 400ish ml due to wholemeal flour absorbing more and this is what happened:

Result, two quality loaves which I have been stuffing my face with for the past few days. I am now slightly addicted to making the stuff when I get the time and looking forward to my next bready challenge.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Coconut Milk Cake and CCC's 2nd Birthday

Sunday marked the 2nd Birthday celebration of the Clandestine Cake Club with a meeting in a Leeds hotel of 30+ bakers and their cakes.
I was fortunate to attend the very first meeting of the CCC way back  in 2010 on a cold December afternoon, I vaguely remember trying to hunt down an inflatable parrot stuck on the door indicating the location. There was only about ten of us on that day that spent a pleasant afternoon chatting and stuffing ourselves stupid with cake. Nowadays it's more a well known secret with meetings countrywide and the odd international event as well but the rules remain ever constant, only cake allowed and there is no judgement on the cakes.

 It's a rare occasion I get to visit an event nowadays there isn't many round my current neck of the woods and unless it's on a weekend I struggle to get to Yorkshire and Leeds to attend events so I was pleased this one was on a Sunday Afternoon.

The cake I decided to make was one I had been eyeing up for awhile. Dan Lepards' Coconut Milk Cake, a delicious sounding cake (if you like coconut that is) that lured me in with the stylish picture in Short and Sweet.
The cake itself  was fairly straightforward. Light and coconutty with hints of rum and lime, very 'wintery carribean' and the meringue butter cream that went with it was light and deliciously buttery, one to use again I think. I added shaved white chocolate to the cake to give it a snowy effect.

Here's to another 2 excellent cakey years and not forgetting the impending CCC cookbook......

Monday 3 December 2012

Roast Pork Belly, Roast Potatoes, Aubergine and Carrots

Sunday Dinner, arguably our finest export. Hunks of juicy roast meats; chicken, beef, pork, lamb the choice is yours. Various veg cooked any numerous of ways ranging from the meh of boiled vegetables, why people, why? To the sublime of a roast potato with it's crisp crunchy golden exterior to its fluffy cloud like centre, drowned in a lake of gravy. delicious.

The OH was in charge of the dinner last Sunday, which she claims is her first effort at a full sunday roast. The star of the show was a huge hunk of pork belly that we picked up at the excellent Doncaster Market. We browsed through River Cottage Veg for some of our favourite veg dishes to finish off the meal.
The final menu:
                      Roast Pork Belly with Chilli, Cumin and Honey
                      Roast Onion Gravy
                      Roasted Potatoes and Aubergine from River Cottage Veg
                      Caramelised Carrots with gremolata from River Cottage Veg

I make no excuses for the picture, that is how a Sunday dinner should be served, mounds of food piled up on the plate, preferably just enough to immobilise the person for the remainder of the Sunday afternoon unless of course, somebody mentions the pub....