Tag Archives: foodie

Thai beef salad

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Last year I bought a couple of new “toys” for my kitchen, namely, a food processor and a slow cooker and they have been invaluable!  I mentioned in my last blog that I have been throwing a number of dinner parties recently and half of the meals that I have been making really would not have been possible if I did not have these two appliances for a mid-week dinner party.

I use my slow cooked to make all manner of things, ranging from pulled pork, rice pudding, tagine, curry and stews.  I suspect you are thinking that these are really winter dishes and to an extent you are right, but there really are some lovely summer dishes that you can make in your slow cooker, for example this Thai Beef Salad.

I use my food processor to make anything from, hummus, cakes, pastry, coleslaw, focaccia to mackerel pate.  Yes I admit it is a pain to wash up but it saves me masses of time in terms of preparation.   If you can afford to get one and have space in your kitchen to it is a worthwhile investment!

I am a huge fan of Vietnamese and Thai food and their fresh and fragrant flavours.  This salad is a flavour explosion and has so many things going on at any one time ranging from sharp, spicy and sweet, to tangy, smoky and cool.

The key to this meal is in the preparation and forward planning, I cook the meat overnight, so that it may cool whilst I am at work during the day. The dressing can be made in advance as it will keep over several days and will just need to be shaken up just before serving. Then it is simply a case of preparing the salads, which if you can use a food processor really takes no time at all.

It may look like a lot of effort to make this salad, however, I cannot recommend it enough.

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Thai beef salad (serves 8-10)

Ingredients:

  • 650 – 750g beef brisket (cut into 1” chunks and any sinew and fat removed)
  • 500-750g thin fresh rice noodles

Beef marinade:

  • 2″ ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 chilli (finely sliced)
  • 150ml light soy sauce
  • 5tbsp honey
  • 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1tbsp hot sauce (or sweet chilli sauce)

Mixed Salad:IMG_3659

  • 4 carrots (peeled and finely sliced)
  • 8 large radishes (finely sliced)
  • 1 cucumber (peeled, halved and de-seeded, then cut into slices)
  • 2 large mangoes (peeled, de-stoned and cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 5/6 spring onions (roughly chopped)
  • 1 large handful sugar snap peas (roughly chopped)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (sliced)
  • 1 handful mint (roughly chopped)
  • 2 handfuls coriander (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small bunch chives (roughly chopped)
  • 2 limes (cut in wedges)

Green Salad

  • 1 Romaine lettuce (roughly sliced)
  • 2 bags mixed salad/stir fry leaves (ideally a combination spinach, kale and pak choi)

Dressing:IMG_3664

  • 5/6 tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 2/3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 3 limes (juice)
  • 1″ ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp hot sauce (or sweet chilli if you prefer)
  • 2/3 tbsp olive oil

Serve with:

  • Chilli (finely sliced)
  • Peanuts (roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar)
  • Prawn crackers

Steps:

Stage 1 – Slow cook beef

  1. Place the beef and all the ingredients for the marinade into a slow cooker.
  2. Put the slow cooker on a low setting and cook for around 6-10 hours stirring occasionally. You will know that the beef is ready when it is slightly caramelised and falls apart when you use two forks to shred it.
  3. When you are happy that the beef is cooked, remove from the slow cooker and place in a bowl, drizzle over some more honey and soy sauce (roughly 3tbsp of each) stir thoroughly and leave to cool completely.

Stage 2 – Salads

  1. Prepare the salads if you have a food processor use it to slice all of the vegetables finely.
  2. In a large bowl combine the, carrots, radishes, cucumber, sugar snap peas, mango, sweet red pepper, mint, chives and coriander. Garnish with the lime wedges.
  3. In another bowl mix together the green salad of the Romaine Lettuce and the mixed leaves.

Stage 3 – Dressing

  1. In a large jam jar shake together the dressing ingredients until they are completely combined.
  2. Add more soy sauce, Hoisin sauce or lime juice as required according to your own tastes.

Stage 4 – Noodles

  1. Just before you are ready to serve, shred the beef with two forks.
  2. Heat some oil in a large pan, then flash fry the noodles adding the beef to warm slightly in the last two minutes

Stage 5 – Serving

  1. To serve place some of the green salad on a plate.
  2. Add a spoonful or two of the mixed salad.
  3. Top with some of the beef noodles.
  4. Pour over a little dressing and add the chilli and peanuts according to your own tastes.
  5. Serve with some prawn crackers.

Prawns and steamed samphire

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I am back in France at the moment at my parent’s house and it is bliss, not only has the weather been magnificent but a lot of fruit and vegetables are in season at the moment which means every meal has been a delight!  I think lunchtime is my favourite meal as it always starts off with a little melon served with some of our home reared cured ham, followed by a huge salad a cheese board that is to be envied and to finish apricots picked straight from the tree. Food does not get much better than that!

As it is the perfect weather for a BBQ yesterday morning I headed to the market to see what I could find to cook for supper.  I ended up coming back with various bits and bobs but the two things that I was most pleased about were the prawns and samphire which I was going to use to make a very simple starter. For those of you who have not come across samphire before it is a sea vegetable that grows abundantly on shorelines.  It has a crisp texture and a delicate salty yet slightly buttery flavour which means it works beautifully with seafood.

The idea of this starter is to let the prawns and the samphire do all the talking and to keep it very simple.  Provided your BBQ is hot and ready to cook on this starter takes roughly 10 minutes to make and there is really nothing to it all you need is a few skewers and a little tin foil.

BBQ prawns with steamed samphire (serves 3)

Ingredients:

350g raw prawns
150g samphire
a knob of butter
3 wedges of lemon (to serve)

Steps:

(1) Wash the samphire and then place on a sheet of tin foil with the butter, create a parcel out of the tin foil and set to one side until you are ready to place it on the BBQ.

(2) Wash your prawns then place them on to a wooden skewer (2-3 prawns on each skewer).  Note: always soak wooden skewers in water for about an hour to stop them burning when you place them on the BBQ.

(3) Once your BBQ is hot enough to cook on, place your tin foil parcel on the BBQ and let it cook for 5 minutes before you place the prawn skewers on the BBQ, cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink.

(4)  As soon as your prawns are cooked, serve the prawns and samphire with a wedge of lemon.  Enjoy!

Lemon cake with mascarpone icing, lemon curd and summer berries

photo 2With my brother’s wedding fast approaching I thought I had better try out another cake idea that I have had for his wedding.  As it was my birthday and it is tradition at work to bring in cake I thought I would take the opportunity to try this cake out on a lot of people.  In the end I think around 40 people ended up trying the cake with a number of people sneaking back for seconds…

As I mentioned in an earlier blog (An idea for a wedding cake) my brother and his fiancé have decided to have a “bake off” at their wedding and are encouraging their guests to bring a variety of baked goods.  It is my understanding that the cakes will be judged on both creativity and presentation.  At the moment I am thinking that this is going to be the cake that I bake as I think will all the colours of the summer berries it is visually very pleasing, however, I think that I am going to have to make a few refinements to the cake to make it more structurally sound as ideally I would like to make the cake several tiers higher.

I ended up icing and decorating the cake at work as I could not face the idea of taking the finished cake onto the London underground.   I popped into the work canteen at around 8.30am and put the cake together within about 10-15 minutes.  All in all it was a stress free process as the beauty of this cake is that is does not matter how messy the cake looks after you have iced it because the berries will cover any mishaps that you may have.

So, why do I think that this is going to be the cake that I make for the bake off?  Well, as the wedding is at the end of August and we are all crossing our fingers that the weather is going to be lovely, I felt that a light cake that has a beautifully creamy filling which is countered by the sharpness of the lemon curd and summer berries would be the type of cake that people would want to eat.  However, we shall just have to wait and see how it turns out.

I would definitely say that this is a cake to try.  If you do not want to make such a large cake, then halve the recipe and bake the cake in a 10″ tin and you will have a lovely cake for either afternoon tea or a summer pudding that your guests will love.

photo 1Lemon cake with mascarpone icing, lemon curd and summer berries

Ingredients:

For the cake:

8 eggs
400g soft margarine
350g caster sugar
400g self raising flour
zest of 2 lemons
1tsp baking powder
1-2 tbsp milk

For the mascarpone icing:

250g mascarpone
150g- 200g icing sugar
zest of a lemon

For the filling and toppings:

1-2 heaped tbsp lemon curd (per layer of sponge)
1 punnet strawberries
1 punnet blueberries
1 punnet blackberries
1 punnet raspberries

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 170C and line a 10″, 8″ and 6″ round cake tin with baking paper.

2. Beat together in a bowl the soft margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs, flour, zest, baking powder and milk, then beat together using an electric whisk for 1-2 minutes.

4. Divide the cake batter up between the 3 tins and bake for around 15-20 minutes for the 6” and 8” tins and 35-45 minutes for the 10” tin or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

5. Leave to cool completely before cutting each of the cakes in half.

6. Make the mascarpone icing by beating the mascarpone in a bowl until soft, add the lemon zest and a little of the icing sugar at a time until you get a consistency of a smooth butter cream.

7. Place one half of the 10” sponge onto a plate then smooth over a little of the mascarpone icing, add 1-2tbsp of lemon curd on top and smooth over with a palette knife. Repeat the process until all of the sponges are stacked on top of each other. (Make sure you don’t use all of the mascarpone icing as you will need some left over to act as the glue to stick the fruit on the cake.)

8. Once the cake is stacked up, then spread the remainder of the mascarpone icing all over the cake before decorating with the berries.

Tip:  If you want to make the cake more special decorate with roses and sprigs of mint interspersed between the berries!

 

Chocolate celebration cake

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My middle brother, Alex, is getting married in August to his lovely fiancée, Jayne, and I cannot wait!  Over recent months there has been much talk of dresses, flowers and of course cakes…  Jayne and Alex have decided to hold a “bake off” at their wedding and have sent the following message out to their guests:

 Wedding Bake Off

We like cake. 

We really like cake, a lot. 

In fact we like cake so much, one wedding cake just won’t be enough… We’re dreaming of a whole table of different wedding cakes, with afternoon tea to follow the ceremony.

We know we have a lot of friends and family members who are amazingly talented bakers.  Can you help us to make our cake dreams come true?

Join our great wedding bake off, and battle it out to be crowned the best wedding cake baker! 

There will be a very democratic judging process on the day…and the favourite wedding cake will be the one that we save and cut in the traditional wedding way.  There are no rules for what to bake or how it is presented, the more creative the better! 

 Not being the type of person to shy away from a challenge I have donned my apron and started testing out a couple of ideas I have had for a  wedding cake to see if: (a) it tastes good; and (b) looks presentable.

At the moment I am in two minds about the flavour.  Our family loves a good chocolate cake and the one that I am going to share with you today certainly ticks that box.  However, as the wedding is in August and will hopefully be on a beautifully hot and sunny day, I am of the view that a lovely light lemon cake would go down much better.  The other option is of course to do multiple cakes… but this might be a step to far as I suspect in the days building up to the wedding things are likely to get a little bit busy.

So, about this cake, as I mentioned it is a chocolate cake.  I suppose you are wondering why I think it is worthy for a wedding cake?  Well… it is not just a chocolate cake, it is three layered super light chocolate cake, filled with a rich chocolate mousse and covered in a white chocolate and sour cream icing, decorated with raspberries…

If you like chocolate, I would recommend trying this cake as it is rather decadent!

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Vanilla and lemon panna cotta

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A few months ago one of my friends cooked me supper, the whole meal was absolutely delicious however the pudding was exceptional and I have been wanting to try to make it ever since.  The perfect opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago as I was cooking supper to celebrate my birthday with friends and family.  Given that panna cotta needs to set I made it a couple of days in advance which meant I didn’t have to do anything other than wash the berries on the day.

Thanks to my French housemate my kitchen is packed full with every cooking utensil and serving dish that you could possibly want which meant I was able to serve the panna cottas in individual cocottes which was quite fun and very easy for presentation purposes.  So if you can get your hands on mini-cocottes then all the better, otherwise,  ramekins would do the job just as well.

The flavour of the panna cotta is delightful and is a nice balance of sweet, tangy and creamy.  By serving it with raspberries it adds a slight sharpness that cuts through the panna cotta complimenting it beautifully.  This is a brilliant summer pudding good for special occasions or as a bit of a treat.

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Vanilla and lemon panna cotta served with fresh raspberries (makes 6)

Ingredients:

  • 400ml double cream
  • 400ml yogurt
  • 3 gelatine sheets (softened in water)
  • ¼ vanilla pod and seeds
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 100g caster sugar

To serve:

  • 1-2 punnets of fresh raspberries
  • juice of 1 lemon
  •  1-2tbsp caster sugar

Steps:

  1. Place the yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla seeds in a bowl and stir together.
  2. Put the cream and sugar and vanilla pod into a pan and heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Add the gelatine to the pan, and cook until the gelatine is dissolved.
  4. Sieve the cream and sugar mixture into the yogurt (this is to ensure your panna cotta is completely smooth).
  5. Stir the mixture together and then carefully pour into 6 mini cocottes.
  6. Leave to set over night.
  7. Before serving, mix together the fresh raspberries, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl and serve with the panna cotta. Enjoy!

Beef pho

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 Whilst “pho” is a Vietnamese dish I think I first discovered my love for it in Hong Kong.  I used to spend hours perusing the Time Out website looking for the best restaurants to go.  I came across an absolutely brilliant tiny little restaurant in Wan Chi that was known for its spicy beef pho and it certainly lived up to its reputation as it was absolutely delicious and I went back there many times during my 6 months.  Ever since I tasted that pho have been trying to recreate the dish and have come up with a recipe that I am very happy with it is slightly less spicy  and is extraordinarily simple to make!

For those of you who don’t know what a pho is, it is a fresh and fragrant noodle soup which can be spiced up to suit your palate.  Recently I have been cheating when I have been making this dish after work, buying a box of prepared stir fry vegetables.  However, yesterday I managed to make it to Shepherd’s Bush Market and was able to buy a whole host of fresh vegetables which I sliced up and threw into the mix and it was absolutely delicious.

As I mentioned before the dish is incredibly straightforward and can be made for large numbers of people with no hassle whatsoever.  I enjoy this meal all year round and at the moment am eating at least once or twice a week varying it by changing the meat or fish I put into it.  My preference is to make the pho with beef as you throw it in raw just before serving and it cooks in the broth.  If you are making the pho with prawns then you should at them at the same time as the noodles.  Alternatively if you are adding chicken, slice it finely and add it to the saucepan at the very beginning.

So if you are looking for something that is fresh, easy and packed full of vegetables then this is definitely something that you should give a try!

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Beef Pho (Serves 2 people)

Ingredients:

  • 150-200g of beef steak (finely sliced and any sinew and fat removed)
  • 1tsp thai green curry paste
  • 2tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1-2tsp honey
  • 1” ginger (finely sliced)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • fresh chilli (quantity will vary depending on how spicy you like your food)
  • ½ a red onion (finely sliced)
  • handful mange tout
  • 1 large carrot (peeled and finely sliced)
  • ½ red pepper (finely sliced)
  • 7-8 pak choi leaves (sliced)
  • 75-100g vermicelli noodles
  • 1pt- 1 ½pts good quality chicken stock
  • juice of 1 lime
  • handful of freshly chopped coriander
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil

Steps:

  1.  Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan except for the beef, coriander, lime juice, noodles and stock in a pan.
  2. On a high heat fry the vegetables very quickly for 1-2minutes.
  3. Add the stock and boil for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the noodles and for a further 1-2 minutes.
  5. Serve the soup in bowls adding the beef, coriander and lime juice just before taking it to the table.  Enjoy!

(Note – the vegetables can be varied according to what you have available so don’t worry if you can’t get pak choi just use another cabbage for example savoy cabbage or even bean sprouts instead.)

 

Toad in the hole (de-constructed)

DSC_0568 (4)I have just returned from Yorkshire, where I spent the weekend with friends and family.  I think that you will be unsurprised to hear that the weekend entailed a lot of cooking and eating…   However, in between meals (which included an outstanding roast that my brothers cooked yesterday evening) we did manage to pack in a couple of good walks in the Dales and by the coast.  Yesterday’s walk down in Robin Hood’s Bay was spectacular.  The scenery was beautiful and to top it off we came across a number of seals sheltering in the rocks that we were walking over. 

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On Saturday evening after a fairly relaxed day I made toad in the hole for everyone.  As we didn’t have a big enough tray to cook the toad in the hole in I decided to “ de-construct” the dish, to put it simply I cooked the Yorkshire puddings and sausages separately and then combined everything once it had all been cooked…  By cooking everything separately made the whole process far easier – the sausages were nicely cooked and the Yorkshire puddings rose beautifully and had a lovely light texture.   I served the toad in the hole with red onion gravy which added a slightly sweet flavour to the dish which worked really well.  I have to say I think this meal is another one of those great comfort foods that are ideal for a cold day, enjoy!

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Toad in the hole (De-constructed)

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 18-24 good quality sausages
  • 5oz plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 egg
  • 225ml milk
  • Vegetable oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C Fan.

2.  Place the sausages in a roasting tray and cook for 30-35 minutes

3.  Whilst the sausages are cooking put the flour and salt in a bowl, using a whisk beat the egg into the dry mix.

4.  Slowly add the milk whisking all the time so stop any lumps forming then, decant the batter into a measuring jug.

5.  Take a non-stick muffin tray (with 12 moulds) and pour a little oil roughly ½tsp – 1tsp into the base of each mould.   After the sausages have been cooking for around 20 minutes place the muffin tray in the oven for 3-5 minutes so that the oil is hot then, remove from the oven and pour the batter evenly between each of the pre-oiled moulds and bake for 15-18 minutes.

6.  Once the sausages and the Yorkshire puddings are cooked, remove from the oven and serve, with celeriac and potato mash, veg and red onion gravy (see recipe below).

Red Onion Gravy

Ingredients:

  • 2 red onions (finely sliced)
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2-3tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 glass red wine
  • 1 heaped tsp honey (optional)
  • 150-250ml beef stock
  • Seasoning

Steps:

1.  Place the oil, onions and sugar in a saucepan cover with a lid and cook very slowly until the onions are soft (this can up to half an hour).

2.  Once the onions are soft, add the flour and stir well.

3.  Turn up the heat and then slowly add the wine, stirring all the time.  Once all the wine has been added, slowly add the beef stock until you have the consistency you are looking for.

4.  Taste and add the honey and season as required.

Starter: Goat’s cheese tartlets – Main: Mediterranean chicken

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I started my new job just over a week ago and I am finding the early mornings a bit of a shock to the system.  That being said I’m slowly getting back into the routine of things. One thing that I can say however is that I have not missed the London commute during my time off; the tube whilst practical is not a pleasant experience in rush hour.   Consequently I am forcing myself to brave the elements and cycle to work 2-3 times a week…

There was one thing that I had been missing whilst I was living in France and that was cooking/going to dinner parties.  This weekend I had the flat to myself and I seized the opportunity to get friends over and spend the evening eating good food and drinking far too much wine!

We started off the evening with a very simple canapé/starter of goat’s cheese and sun blushed tomato tartlets.  I used filo pastry to make them as it is beautifully light and the resulting tartlets look very pretty.  On this occasion I didn’t serve the tartlets with anything, however, a simple rocket salad work well.

For the main I cooked chicken in a Mediterranean style sauce mixing a combination tomatoes, olives and feta.  The resultant dish was fresh and packed full of flavour.  I would recommend serving the chicken on a bed of mashed potato with steamed vegetables.  It is a simple dish to make and is a great option to make if you are having lots of people over!

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Mediterranean Chicken (Serves 5-6)

Ingredients:

  • 5/6 chicken breasts
  • 800g chopped tomatoesDSC_0551 (3)
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes
  • 100-125g black pitted olives
  • 2 large onions (finely sliced)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ glass of red wine (I used a Rioja)
  • 200g feta cheese (cut into cubes)
  • ½ tsp herbs of Provence
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • Seasoning
  • olive oil for cooking with

Steps:

1.  Preheat an oven to 180C fan.

2.  Place the onions and garlic in a frying pan with a little oil and cook on a medium heat until they are soft.

3.  Pour a little oil into a large roasting tray, add the chicken breasts and make sure they are coated with the oil and season well.

4.  Add the softened onions, olives, chopped tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, wine, lemon zest, bay leaf, herbs and mix together.

5.  Cover the roasting tray with tin foil and cook in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

6.  Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven.  Scatter over the feta cheese and parsley and then serve with some mashed potato and the vegetables of your choice.

 

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Goat’s cheese and sun blushed tomato tartlets

Ingredients: (makes 24)

  • ½ a packet of filo pastry (cut into 2” squares)DSC_0543 (3)
  • 250g goat’s cheese (cut into small pieces)
  • 100-125g sun blushed tomatoes (cut into small pieces)
  • 2tsp freshly chopped parsley
  • olive oil
  • black pepper

Steps:

1. Preheat an oven to 170C fan.

2.  Lightly grease two mince pie trays, place 2 squares of filo pastry into each of the moulds.

3.  Mix together the goat’s cheese and sun blushed tomatoes in a bowl, then put a little of the mixture into the centre of the pastry.

4.  Drizzle over a little olive oil and season with black pepper.

5.  Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden brown and the cheese has melted.

6.  Remove from the oven and scatter over the chopped parsley just before serving.

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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.

 

Oysters

My first experience of an oyster was not a good one, I had one in the North of France when I was about 6 years old and I remember thinking that the texture was not very agreeable.  With the beauty of hindsight I have come to realise that oysters are something that you grow into and I now very much enjoy them raw with just a squeeze of lemon or just a little shallot dressing.

The last time we had oysters it turned out that we had mislaid our shucking knife, undoubtedly it is ‘somewhere safe’…   So armed with a flat headed screwdriver and relatively blunt knife the Old Man set to work, as you can see in the pictures below the flat headed screwdriver worked a treat.  Where there is a will there is always a way….

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Oysters

Ingredients:DSC_0308 (3)

  • 12 oysters
  • 1 lemon (cut into wedges)
  • crushed ice (to serve on)

For the shallot and red wine dressing:

  • 1 shallot (finely sliced)
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • seasoning

Steps:

1.  Hold an oyster in a tea towel, then take a shucking knife and insert the blade between the top and bottom shell and twist it from side to side until the hinge of the oyster breaks.  Lever the top of the shell open, by running the blade of the knife along the edge of the shell to free the oyster.  Discard the top shell and remove any small fragments of shell that may have broken off as it was opened.

3.  Put the crushed ice on a plate and then arrange the shells containing the oysters on top.

4.  Make the shallot dressing, by mixing together the vinegar, seasoning and shallots then pour the mixture into a small bowl or jug.

5.  Serve the oysters with the wedges of lemon and shallot vinegar on the side.

[Note:  Oysters are best bought when there is an ‘r’ in the month, so from September to April.]

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