Category Archives: pastry

Venison wellington served with a red wine gravy

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Last November I followed the local hunt when they were shooting deer so that I could take some photographs of the day.  It was a really interesting experience that started at 8 o’clock in the morning, as all the hunters gathered at the ‘hunting lodge’ to sign in.  ‘Petit cafés’ were drunk in abundance as hunting stories and local news was shared amongst the hunters whilst they waited to hear the plan for the day.

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At 9 o’clock the chaps who were shooting set off in their little white vans and 4×4’s dressed in a combination of camouflage and high visibility jackets and hats, to position their stools (an absolutely necessity for comfort purposes when out shooting) , thermos flasks and set up their guns.  Those who were walking with the dogs stayed behind to lock up the lodge before heading out about 30 minutes later.

The dogs were split into 2 packs to work on either side of the valley.  Every time a dog picked up the scent of a deer you knew about it as the braying started and the hounds set off at speed.  A hunting horn was used to summon back the dogs as well as to announce if there had been a kill indicated by a single blow of the horn.

3BW_0422 At 12 o’clock on the dot the hunters packed up their guns and headed back to the lodge where the mornings kill was displayed and a glass of wine was handed out.  After much discussion of the morning’s success (7 deer and 1 fox) everyone headed inside to sit down on long trestle tables for a 5 course meal (soup, pâté, grilled meat and bean stew, cheese and chocolate mousse).  During the course of the lunch I found out that out of our commune of 1,400 people there are 130 registered hunters.  It also quickly became apparent that women rarely attend the hunt, resulting in much banter and joking amongst the men as they speculated as to whether this was where I hoped to find a husband

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I parted company with the hunt after lunch and left them to carry on for a further 3 hours.  When I caught up with some of them later that evening, they were in great spirits as they informed me they had had a super day having got a further 4 deer – bringing tally up to 11 deer and 1 fox.  This meant that when the deer were later skinned and butchered, each of the 30-odd hunters received roughly a side of deer at the end of the day.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about Venison Pasties, we had been given a side of roe deer before Xmas by the hunt as a thank you for allowing them to shoot on our land – as a result, over the last couple of months I have been able to cook various recipes using the venison.  Last night’s supper was without doubt in my mind the best of the lot, Venison Wellington.  I mean who doesn’t like tender meat flavoured with juniper berries picked in our forest, surrounded with mushrooms slowly cooked in cream and brandy wrapped in pastry that is packed full of butter and just flakes in your mouth….

If you can afford to buy the venison fillet then this is absolutely worth cooking!  Be patient when you make it and let everything cool completely before wrapping everything up in the pastry, if necessary prepare everything in the morning and then put it together in the evening.  Preparation is the key to making this dish!

 

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Venison Wellington (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 quantity rough puff pastry (see recipe below)
  • 500g venison fillet
  • 1/2tsp juniper berries
  • seasoning
  • 1 egg (for glazing)

For the Mushroom Duxelles:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g chestnut mushrooms (diced)
  • 4 shallots (finely diced)
  • ½tsp thyme
  • 2-3tbsp brandy
  • 2-3tbsp cream
  • seasoning

Steps:

Stage 1 – Pastry

  • Prepare your rough puff pastry according to the recipe below.

Stage 2 – Prepare the meat

  • Remove any sinew or fat from the fillet.
  • Crush the juniper berries in a pestle and mortar then scatter them over the bottom of a roasting tray along with some salt and pepper.
  • Heat a frying pan so that it is ‘smoking hot’ – sear your fillet roughly 30 seconds on each side.  Remove from the pan and place in the roasting tray and roll in the juniper berry seasoning, then cover with tin foil and leave to cool completely.

Stage 3 – Prepare the Duxelles

  • Melt the butter in the frying pan you seared the meat in.
  • Add the thyme, mushrooms and shallots, cook on a low temperature very gently until the mushrooms are soft (this can take up to 1 ½hrs).
  • Add the brandy and cook for a further 10-15 minutes .
  • Finally add the cream and cook for a final 2-3 minutes before setting to one side and allowing to cool completely.

Stage 4 – Prepare your Wellington

  • Preheat your oven to 190C fan.
  • Roll out your pastry into a large rectangle on a piece of baking paper.
  • Spoon the Duxelles into the middle of the pastry and smooth out, leaving a slight border around the edges of the pastry.
  •  Place the fillet in the centre.

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  • Brush some egg wash around the edges of the pastry, then roll over the pastry to create a cylinder shape.  Seal the ends of the pastry by pinching it together gently.

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  • Finally roll the Wellington over so that the seal is on the bottom, score the top of the Wellington using the back of a knife, then brush with egg wash.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes then allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Rough Puff Pastry

Ingredients:

  • 250g butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 100-150ml chilled water
  • 1tsp salt

Steps:

1.  Place the flour, salt and butter in bowl and roughly ‘crumb together’ using your fingers.

2.  Add some of the water and bring the mixture together, adding more water if it is needed.

3.  Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

4.  Once chilled remove from the fridge and roll out into a rectangular shape.  Imagine that the rectangle is divided into thirds and fold, one side in to the middle and then fold the other side into the middle.  Turn it 90 degrees and then roll out and repeat again before wrapping up in cling film and chilling for 20 minutes.

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5.  Once chilled repeat step 4 again, chill for a final 20 minutes before rolling out for use.

[Note:  the quantities about makes about 600g of pastry.  The pastry can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days before using.]

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Red Wine Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 1 glass red wine
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • ½ tsp allspice berries
  • 4 juniper berries
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150ml beef stock
  • 1 heaped tsp cornflour (make into a paste using a little water)

Steps:

  1. Place the wine, brandy, allspice, juniper berries and bay leaf into a small saucepan and heat until it has reduced by half.
  2. Add the beef stock and heat for around 5 minutes.
  3. Finally add the cornflour and heat until the gravy has thickened.  Serve immediately.

 

Baked apple parcel

It has been a rather stressful couple of days as sadly the new puppy (Hetti) has not been well…   Yesterday we had to take her to the vet as she was just not keeping anything down which was a little worrying.  The vet asked to keep her over the course of the afternoon so that he could take x-rays, monitor her and then decide the best course of action.  After a frustrating afternoon of not being able to do anything we called him to see how she was progressing – fortunately she was a lot better having been given various jabs and medicine and we could take her home.  On opening the vet’s door you could immediately tell our little pup was better as you could hear her howling at the top of her lungs, clearly unimpressed at having been put in a cage.  Seeing us arrive, the receptionist dashed out to get Hetti informing us that she had held her for the majority of the afternoon as it would appear she is a bit of an attention seeker and does not like to be left alone…  I am pleased to say that she a lot better today and has been trying to play with the other dogs who really don’t know what to make of her.

Below is a recipe for a baked apple parcel, it is very easy to make and a great pudding to have after a roast.   The apple cooks within its flaky pastry casing and becomes soft and fluffy whilst the mincemeat filling adds a slight sweetness.  I served this pudding with a little custard however it would taste just as nice with cream or ice cream.

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Venison pasty

This weekend a member of the hunt came over bearing a side of roe deer as a thank you for allowing them to shoot on our land; so on Monday it needed to be butchered into manageable pieces.  After about an hour and a lot of knife sharpening I had a huge leg, a long slab of fillet, a kidney and about 2 ½ kilos of stewing meat packed away in freezer bags.  You might be wondering where the shoulder went – as the deer was shot just behind the foreleg it meant there were bits of bone fragment and shot around the shoulder.  Consequently, it was easier to clean and remove the bits of bone fragment from the shoulder by cutting it into stewing meat.

In France they do not tend to hang meat (in general) for very long – in this instance the deer had not been hung at all!   Therefore I was interested to see how it would affect the tenderness of the meat given that I was not going to be slow cooking it before putting it in the pastry.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the deer was not at all tough.  What I must stress however, is that it is incredibly important to try and remove as much of the sinew, veins and membrane as you can before you cook the meat.  This can be very time consuming, but it is worthwhile as it stops the meat becoming chewy or tough.

I decided to make some pasties using a little of the stewing meat and the kidney.  Last year I did a sailing course in Falmouth and it was there I discovered how comforting a good pasty can be – particularly after you had spent the entire day getting cold and wet on a boat.  The thing that I noticed when I had tried them was the importance of good seasoning, as it can make or break a pasty, so don’t be shy about using a healthy amount of salt and pepper.  The recipe below would work well with beef or chicken if you can’t get your hands on some venison.  If you fancy making it completely vegetarian just add some other vegetables in the place of the meat, for example carrots, spinach, butternut squash, Jerusalem artichokes, etc..

 

 

Venison Pasty

Ingredients: (makes 3 large pasties)

For the pastry:

  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2oz chilled butter
  • 2oz chilled hard margarine
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp water (to bind)
  • 1 beaten egg (for glazing)

For the filling:

  • 400g venison (any sinew and membrane removed and chopped into chunks)
  • 1 kidney (de-veined and chopped into chunks)
  • 1 medium potato (peeled and diced)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 baby turnips (peeled and diced)
  • 2-3tbsp red wine
  • sprinkling thyme
  • seasoning

Steps:

1. Firstly make the pastry – place the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Cut the butter and margarine into cubes, add to the dry mix.

2. Using your fingers crumb together the mixture (don’t worry if you have a few small bits of butter that haven’t broken down).

3. Then add the water (a little bit at a time) until the pastry comes together and you can make a ball.  Wrap the pastry in some cling-film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

4. Whilst the pastry is chilling prepare you’re your filling, by mixing all of the ingredients together in a bowl, cover with cling film and set to one side until you are ready to use it.

   

5.Once the pastry has been chilled, remove from the fridge cut into 3 equal sized pieces. Roll out each ball on a floured surface to your preferred thickness, then using a bowl/plate as a template cut out a circle roughly 20cm in diameter.

6. Divide the filling equally between each of the pastry circles.  

   

7. Using a pastry brush, gently brush some of the beaten egg around the edge of the pastry to help it seal when you fold it over into a “D” shape.

8. Seal the pastry together first using your fingers and then take a fork and gently press down on the edges to form a crimped edge.

9. Finally, place the pasties on an oven tray that you have lined with greaseproof paper, brush the outside of the pasties with some of the egg wash and using a knife pierce the top of the pasties twice (this will allow the steam to escape whilst it is cooking).

10. Place the pasties in an oven that you have preheated to 190C fan for 40-45 minutes. Serve.

 

  

Sweet and savoury courgette recipes

As I mentioned in my last blog, our neighbour dropped off a huge amount of vegetables the other day, which included a large box of courgettes.  I don’t mind courgettes; however they are not the most popular vegetable in our household and often just seem to get chucked into things just to use them up.  Subsequently I have been trying to think of new recipes to cook them in.  So far I have cooked with them in a tart, I have made them into fritters and I have baked with them in a cake.  I think out of the three my favourite was the tart, the flavours were subtle but pleasant and would be lovely with a salad on a summer’s day.

In addition to trying out new recipes I have been making up vast quantities of baked ratatouille which have been frozen ready for use in the upcoming months.  I have been using the same ingredients that we use in our families recipe for ratatouille but have been cooking it in a slightly different way.  My mother’s recipe cooks the ingredients as you would a vegetable stew, whereas I prefer to layer up the vegetables and tomato sauce before baking it (if I am being truthfully I got the idea of layering up the vegetables from the cartoon Ratatouille – I guess inspiration can come from anywhere…)

I can safely say that I have eaten courgette every meal this week (save for breakfast) in some form or another and I am looking forward to eating something other than courgettes once we have managed to use them all up/preserved them…  However until then I am pretty sure I am eating my ‘five a day’ in the form of courgettes.


Courgette and Tomato Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet pre-rolled puff pastry

Tomato Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 3 small sprigs of basil (leaves torn)
  • 12-15 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Seasoning
The toppings:

  • 3 medium courgettes (sliced 2-3mm rounds)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 3 tomatoes (peeled / de-seeded / sliced)
  • 100-150g blue cheese like a Cambozola (sliced)
  • Black pepper for seasoning

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven 190C Fan.
  2. In a bowl mix together the ingredients for the tomato sauce.
  3. Prep the courgettes, by salting the slices in a colander to draw out the water – rinse in water – then dry with a tea towel.
  4. Mix the garlic and olive oil in a bowl, then toss the courgette slices in the oil mix.
  5. Finally make up the tart: Spread the tomato sauce on the pastry (leaving an inch from the edge), place on the courgettes overlapping them as you place them, then equally distribute the cheese and the tomato slices in a pattern of your choosing, lastly season well with black pepper.
  6. Bake in the oven for 17-20 minutes.

               

Courgette Fritters

(Note: When I made these I decided to add a little more flour to the mix after cooking the first two fritters because the mix  was fairly wet, by doing so it helped hold the mix together a little better.  I had a couple of thoughts about how the recipe could be adapted depending what you were eating them with, for example if I was serving the fritters with fish and a side salad I would add a little lemon zest, coriander and chilli in the place of the parsley, paprika and cayenne. )

Ingredients:

  • 2 large courgettes (grated and either using your hands or a colander and a spoon squeeze out any liquid that you can)
  • 1 small onion (grated)
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 1 heaped tbsp parmesan
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 sprigs parsley chopped
  • 1 egg
  • Seasoning
  • Oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and season well.
  2. Heat some oil in a frying pan.
  3. Shape the courgette mix into golf sized balls, place a few at a time into the pan and then flatten slightly using a spatula.
  4. Cook on each side for 3-4 minutes (or until they are golden brown)

          

Mini Chocolate and Courgette Cakes

[Note:  I am pleased to say that this attempt at making chocolate and courgette cakes were a far bigger success than the complete failure that I had earlier this summer!  I like the little kick that the cayenne pepper adds in this recipe however if you are not a fan of spice then just leave it out when you are making up the cake batter.]

Ingredients:

The ingredients for this cake are measured by using an individual yogurt pot (125g).

  • 1 pot plain yogurt
  • 1 pot oil (sunflower or vegetable)
  • 2 pots sugar
  • 2 ½ pots self-raising flour
  • ½ pot cocoa powder
  • 1 large courgette (grated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 170C fan.
  2. Grease and flour a muffin tray.
  3. Mix everything except the courgette in a bowl.  Once the batter is well mixed, stir in the courgette.  Then pour the batter into the muffin tin. 
  4.  Bake for 17-20 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean).
  5. Leave to cool before serving with crème fraiche or ice-cream and a simple chocolate sauce (made by melting some chocolate with some cream).

Baked Ratatouille

[This is a great accompaniment to any meal particularly on a cool autumnal day.  This is a dish that takes a bit of time to prepare, but, is well worth the effort and leaves you feeling very healthy when you eat it.]

Ingredients:

  • 1 aubergine
  • 3 courgettes
  • 1 red pepper (Roasted in the oven for 30 mins at 190C Fan then peeled and de-seeded)
  • 1 medium sized onion (diced)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 can of tinned tomatoes (or 5-6 fresh tomatoes roasted in the oven with a little oil, thyme and seasoning for 30 mins at 190C Fan then remove the core and roughly chop the tomato)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for cooking with

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C fan.
  2. Cut the aubergine and courgettes into 2-3mm thick circles.  Place them into a colander sprinkle with salt and place on top of a bowl/in the sink to allow the water to draw out of the aubergine and courgettes.
  3. Place the onion and garlic in a pan with some oil and the sugar then cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, stock cube, thyme, season with salt and pepper, then stir all the ingredients together and leave to simmer on a very low heat whilst you get on with preparing the other vegetables.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan.  In batches cook the aubergine for roughly 1-2 minutes on each side until they are soft.  Once the aubergines are cooked quickly pan fry all the courgette slices in a little bit of oil to give them a little colour this should take no longer than 2 minutes.
  6. Finally make up the ratatouille in a medium sized oven proof dish layer up the dish in the following order:
    • Tomato Sauce
    • Aubergine
    • Courgette
    •  Red Pepper
    • Tomato Sauce
    • Courgette
    • Aubergine
    • Tomato Sauce
  7. Place the dish in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.

There may have been tears at the start but it was worth it in the end…

No, for those who are wondering I am not an emotional wreck today, I have merely been cutting onions.  Over the years I have pretty much tried everything to stop the tears flowing when cutting onions including: wearing glasses, sticking out my tongue and putting a spoon in my mouth, but in the end it always seems more hassle than it’s worth and it doesn’t always work.  Subsequently, for roughly five minutes this morning as I peeled some red onions I had tears running down my cheeks.

Today I have been trying to recreate a Red Onion & Port Marmalade that I made two weeks ago on a bit of a whim.  I had seen some red onions for sale in the market which looked pretty good, so I thought why not try something new that would work well with cheese – the end result was a red onion & port marmalade.  The major problem I have in the kitchen when I try out a new recipe is I never write down what it is I am doing especially quantities of ingredients (this is partly because I largely cook by eye and by tasting things regularly).  So when the first of the 3 pots of the onion marmalade was opened and finished in less than a day last week and the second pot quickly disappeared too, I thought I had better try and work out what exactly I did before all memory of what I’d done disappeared.

The first thing I should mention is that in the first batch I made, I used up a rather old bottle of port that had been lying around for years called Sao Pedro (aged for 10) years which had a lovely strong flavour and really good smell which really came out in the marmalade.  However, this morning I used a somewhat cheaper Tawny port, that was much sweeter and in my opinion far less fragrant.  But that being said they both have worked well despite tasting slightly different. So I would say depending on your budget or what you have left lying around it doesn’t really matter what type of port you use.

Red Onion & Port Marmalade

Ingredients:

  • 5tbsp olive oil
  • 2.4kg (weight after being peeled)
  • 2tsp thyme
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 250ml port and ½ small wine glass of port
  • 350ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper

Steps:

  1. Sterilise some jam jars ready for use once your onion marmalade is made.
  2. Finely slice the onions (I use a food processer to do this for ease).
  3. Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and warm on a low heat.
  4. Add the onions and half of the sugar to the pan and stir.  Cover with a lid and leave the onions to soften slowly, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the onions are soft, add the thyme, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar and the remaining sugar.  Turn up the heat a little and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
  6. After about 5-10 minutes add the port (keeping back the port in the wine glass as you’ll need this later) and stir together.
  7. Now it is a waiting game, as you stir your pan occasionally until the liquid has reduced down so there is only a little liquid left in the pan.
  8. When you think your onion marmalade is almost ready give it a little taste to see if it needs a little more seasoning, before you add the remaining port (if you think it needs it) that you have held back in the wine glass, stir the port in and cook for a further 5-10 minutes before removing from the heat and placing in the sterilised jam jars for storing.

Ideas for what to serve the Red Onion & Port Marmalade with…

All of the ideas I have for the Red Onion & Port Marmalade involve cheese as that is what I originally had in mind when I first made it.  I made both of the following recipes as a starter as they were good to share amongst a large number of people…

Goats Cheese and Red Onion & Port Marmalade Tarts (makes 4 small tarts)

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 200g of soft goats cheese (remove any rind)
  • 14-16 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 4 heaped tsp of the red onion & port marmalade
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Black pepper for seasoning
  • 1 small egg

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C fan.
  2. Lightly flour 4 individual tart tins (12cm diameter).
  3. Roughly cut the puff pastry into four pieces and place in the tart tins.
  4. Spread 1 heaped teaspoon of the onion marmalade on the bottom of each of the individual tarts.
  5. Cut the goats cheese into small chunks and distribute equally between the tarts along with the cherry tomatoes, drizzle over a little olive oil and add a little black pepper.
  6. Finally beat the egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, lightly brush some of the egg wash over the exposed pastry.
  7. Place in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes (until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is melted).

Baked Cheese Parcel served with Red Onion & Port Marmalade

Ingredients:

Cheese Parcel:

  • 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 500g wheel of either Coulommiers, Brie or Camembert (depending on what type of cheese you like most)
  • 1 egg
Serve with:

  • Red Onion & Port Marmalade
  • French bread
  • Carrot batons

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C fan.
  2. Using a fork prick the top of the cheese you are using 6 times through to the middle of the cheese.
  3. Place the cheese in the centre of the pastry.
  4. You now need to make the cheese into a parcel, I do this by cutting the pastry into 8 segments and then folding the gently into the middle of the cheese and cutting off any excess.
  5. Finally beat the egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush, lightly brush some of the egg wash all over the pastry.
  6. Place in the oven and cook for 20-22 minutes (until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese is melted).
  7. Remove from the oven and serve with the red onion & port marmalade, french bread and carrot batons.