PEA PANNACCOTTA AND SMOKED SALMON

This is a real show stopper of a starter.   You will need a mould or individual moulds in any shape you fancy.  I used a Battenberg tin with the inserts removed just because I wanted mine rectangular and flat.  Wet the chosen mould(s) and line with clingfilm.   This is very important or you will struggle getting the pannacotta out later.

Peas, fresh or frozen, 160g

Vegetable stock, 150ml, if cooking for vegetarians.  Chicken stock gives a better flavour

Double cream, 150ml

Gelatine leaves, use according to pack – use vegetarian variety if cooking for vegetarians

Pea shoots, an optional but very pretty and tasty decoration, these can be difficult to source but Waitrose is generally a good bet or indeed my local Co-Op often has these

Smoked salmon, or you can use crab meat, prawns or any type of shellfish you fancy

 

METHOD

Put the peas and chosen stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes or so, allow to cool

peas saucepan

Put the gelatine in a jug and pour on hot water and allow to dissolve.  Don’t short circuit this otherwise your pannacotta will be ‘grainy’

Add the cream and gelatine.  Blend with a hand mixer or food processor until its the consistency you want.  I want mine a tad course, but if you want the real smooth custardy type finish then pass the mixture through a sieve.   Knock the tray up and down gently to remove any bubbles, and allow to cool before placing in the fridge to set.

smooth peas 2

Leave for a couple of hours or until needed

Lift clingfilm out of mould gently, if it is resistant, pop the base of the mould into hot water very brieflyto soften and ease removal.

Cut into desired shapes, or leave ‘as is’ – the choice is yours.

Plate up with desired fish and decorate – I couldn’t get any pea shoots today – typical.

img_3592

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TAPPITY TAP, DEATHWATCH BEETLES ARE BACK

It’s that time of year again.  It will not be too long until the little tappers are at it again.

Below is an article I wrote on behalf of a client a couple of years ago, which is still relevant today.

Don’t forget to like and subscribe for more.  Feel free to ask any questions you may have and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.

 

deathwatch article

TO KILL A MOCKING WEED

Japanese knotweed or Fallopia Japonica is rife and causing major headaches for both UK sellers and buyers of properties.  The majority, if not all of main stream lenders will not approve funding against properties with Japanese Knotweed, even if the plant is a long way away from buildings or even on an adjacent property.

Originally brought to Europe from Japan by German born botanist Phillip von Siebold, who found the very attractive plant growing on the sides of volcanoes in Japan.

Indeed, the plant is so attractive it was named “most interesting new ornamental plant of the year” n 1847, in Holland.  The Victorians had a lot to answer for.

Japanese knotweed can grow through tarmac and cause structural damage to properties including drains, pipework, patios, paths, drives, boundary and retaining walls, outbuildings, conservatories and gardens.  Treatment programmes are both long and expensive and can take years to completely eradicate.

The plant is rapid growing, up to 20cm every day.  It reaches heights of up to two metres before ultimately dying down, but beware, as the roots can be very long.

The critical issue is rapid identification.  If you can identify the plant quickly, then you can deal with it before it becomes virulent and cause damage.  It is readily recognisable by its heart shaped leaves and dark red stalks.

Solutions are:

Dig it out – ensuring removal of as much of the root as possible.  If a tiny piece of root remains then it will simply grow back.

Chemical treatment – this may take several applications before it is successful.

My preference is for injecting directly into the stalks, which, as they are hollow, allows for the chemical to enter the roots thereby killing the plant at source.  This is usually carried out late summer/autumn and may take several treatments.

On a lighter note, a further solution and one I have not (no pun intended) is to eat it.  Yes, several chefs and foragers have created dishes from Japanese knotweed, thought to taste like a lemony rhubarb and can be used in sweet or savoury dishes.  It is also rumoured you can make wine with it.

Glass of knotweed vino anyone?

IT’S BEHIND YOU

This beautiful photograph shows a ha-ha, immediately behind the huntsman and hounds.

A ha-ha is basically a form of retaining wall with a ditch beyond which keeps livestock off the neat, maniured lawn areas in front of stately homes.

There are various schools of thought as to who invented the ha-ha, from the famous Charles Bridgeman or William Kent to Lancelot Brown, known as Capability Brown because of his ability to look at a piece of land and state “it had great capabilities”.  It is further thought that the ha-ha originated in France where a similar style was called a Saute de Loup, which translates as wolf leap.

This feature was introduced to keep livestock off the formal gardens surrounding a house without affecting the sweeping views, giving the illusion the livestock are grazing on infinite lawns.

Deciphering Danny Dyer

Well, well, well…..  Christmas time and the television was dreadful, so much to the point we actually watched EastEnders, a very popular soap on the BBC.

The well known actor, Danny Dyer, plays Mick the publican who runs the Queen Victoria Public House, known as the Queen Vic’.

A Cockney by birth, both my partner and I watched the Christmas episode with our jaws dropping by the minute!  We were brought up with Cockney rhyming slang and neither of us could work out what was being said, half the time.  My friends and followers across the pond would have no chance!

My friend Carol told me that one of her friends who is also an East Ender is totally embarrassed by Danny Dyer and his version of “Cockney rhyming slang”.  Putting our heads together we have come up with the following translations to aid in deciphering just exactly what Danny Dyer means:

TREACLE

We think he means treacle tart, as many years ago, women were called tarts after the pretty cakes and tarts seen in baker shop windows.  At the time, this was meant as a compliment, but obviously nowadays it would be totally inappropriate, but this, we think this is Danny’s take on this.  ‘Allo Treekall is how he pronounces it.

KETTLE

“That’s a nice kettle” – ?  This took us some time to work out.  We think in Dyer speak a kettle relates to a kettle and hob which equals fob and refers to a fob watch, which gentlemen used to wear years ago.

hob watch

A lovely example of a fob or pocket watch

20 BAGS

Okay, we can’t stop watching it now!  Last night saw Dyer talking about a diamond ring and said it was worth “twenty bags”?

Twenty bags?  We worked it out that he meant twenty thousand pounds and that a bag meant a bag of sand which is a grand or £1,000.00!  You really do need your wits about you.

SWEET AS OR SWEET

This translates to sweet as a nut, but is abbreviated and is rhyming slang.

SYRUP

This translates to syrup and fig which means a wig and is recognised Cockney rhyming slang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SWIRLY WHIRLY CINNAMON APPLE PIE

You will need:

2 ready rolled shortcrust pastry sheets

Apples – whatever you fancy – I used 6 Bramleys.  You can use whatever apples you want, a mix of coking and eating works as will any type you fancy

Dark brown muscavado sugar and caster sugar

Ground cinnamon

1 egg, beaten or egg wash mixture (milk and egg mixed) for glazing

Juice of 1 lemon

A splash of Calvados, if you wish and no children will be eating the pie.  This does add a super richness and depth to the pie but can just as easily be omitted if you prefer.

Equipment:

A nice oven proof pie dish – Mine came from Waitrose and cost about a tenner

A peeler

A saucepan

METHOD:

Spread out one of the pastry sheets and sprinkle cinnamon over it as per pic:

cinammon scatter

I used a pastry brush to spread the powder evenly over the surface of the pastry as below:

cinammon brush

Peel and core your apples, I peel mine then cut them into four around the core or you can use a corer if you have one.  Pop the apples into a saucepan with a few drops of lemon juice and caster sugar to suit your taste.  Cook until softened a tad, I like to keep mine quite firm but you can cook to mush if you prefer.

Let the apples cook whilst you roll up the pastry sheet as below:

cinammon roll

Roll up quite tightly and repeat with the other pastry sheet.  Once the apple mixture has cooled a bit, cut one of the pastry rolls into pieces about 1cm wide all along the length.  Pop the cut pieces in between two pieces of greaseproof paper and roll out:

cinammon roll out

Roll until you have pastry large enough to line your chosen pie dish and fit pastry to dish and trim:

cinammon pastry in dish

Put your apple mixture into the pie dish: cinammon pie interior  Roll out the other sheet exactly the same, and cover the pie and trim.  Brush with your chosen glaze and oven cook for at least twenty minutes in your Aga,middle shelf with cold shelf above, or it will burn, an electric oven at  200 degrees or gas Mark 4 until golden.  Serve with a sprinkling of the muscavado sugar if desired and custard, cream or ice cream.  Enjoy!

BURGERS BELIEF – THE ULTIMATE BEEF BURGER – EVER!

Firstly you will need a good butcher.  I use Hards family butchers in Halstead, Essex.

INGREDIENTS:

A mixture of minced chuck, brisket, short rib and beef fat.  I used 30% of the beef with 10% fat.  You may wish to up or down the fat content as mine came out rather fatty, but then I did fry these and they would have been better on a bbq or grilled.

burger mix

The beef

Season the meat well and mix together.  Form into balls and then flatten to make patties.  That’s all there is to it.  These are the tastiest burgers you will find and they work out really cheap – around £1.60 each for a 4oz burger.

Cook to your liking – current health and safety stipulates that beef mince should be cooked well done, but I take no notice as I like mine pink in the middle, or medium, but its your burger and your choice.

I serve mine in brioche buns, lightly toasted with lettuce, tomato, sliced gherkin, onion rings and a few chipppies.

Bon appetit!

Bad Cold? Coughing? Two Recipes to help!

If you are unfortunate enough to have suffered or are suffering from the nasty cold that is currently going around, here are a couple of simple soup recipes, which whilst won’t fix the cold, they will help to make you feel better and put some goodness into you, as well as helping towards your five a day!

GREEN GOODNESS POWER SOUP

Ingredients:

Onion(s)

Head of brocolli

Bag of baby spinach

Head of celery

Peas – fresh or frozen, doesn’t matter

Ready or home made chicken and or vegetable stock (I use a mix of both)

Clove or two of garlic

You will need a large saucepan and a hand mixer or blender

METHOD:

In a large frying pan fry off the onion(s) in a small amount of olive oil, just to soften rather than colour.  Roughly chop the broccoli (neatness doesn’t matter as all the ingredients will be mushed later on), chuck it in the pan.

green goodness soup small pic

Once softened, add the peas and the chicken and vegetable stocks.  Boil to soften the peas, if fresh, then add the baby spinach.  Let this soften and wilt then turn off the heat and let it cool for a while.

green soup complete

When cooler, use a hand mixer to mush it all up to a consistency you like.  I make mine reasonably course.  This is a real power soup and will help your immune system cope with the nasty cold.

I put a portion in a bowl and microwave it for a minute or two.

 

JEWISH PENICILLIN – The ultimate comfort soup

Chicken soup, known fondly as Jewish penicillin,  is widely known as the cure for everything from coughs and colds to broken hearts.  Every Jewish family will have its own take on this recipe, here are my two versions.  Whilst using a whole chicken will feed a family for days, I prefer to use the second recipe utiising the carcass of a previously roasted bird.

INGREDIENTS:

The best you can buy chicken, I get mine from a local farmer

4 Onions

4 Carrots

Few sticks celery

1 Tomato

Couple of springs of thyme

2 Bay leaves

2 Cloves of garlic

Chicken stock – your own, packet or cube.  The best ones are kosher, if you can get them

You will need a large pot big enough to take the chicken and water.

METHOD:

After washing the chicken thoroughly, pop it into the pot with enough water it and bring to the boil.  Skim off any frothy scum, lower the heat and simmer for thirty minutes.

Add the chopped vegetables, including the tomato, with the thyme, stock and bay leaves, bring back to the boil and skim off any fatty froth and reserve, if making matzo balls (see below).  Simmer for one hour.

Remove the chicken from the soup and allow to cool until you can handle it enough to remove the meat from the bones.  Pop the meat back into the soup and then I use my hand mixer to mush this all up, although it can be left ‘as is’.

Noodles and or matzo balls can be added to the soup before putting the chicken meat back in.  Jewish noodles (lokshen) or spaghetti can be added, or matzo balls, which are matzo crackers mushes to a powder or matzo meal mixed with 4 tablespoons of the chicken fat gleaned from the poaching liquor, 2 large egss mixed with 140 gms matzo meal.  Mix well and pop into the fridge for half an hour.  When cool, ball into around twenty balls which will increase in size during the cooking process, simmering them in the soup mixture for twenty minutes or so.

ALTERNATIVELY:

The ingredients are the same except use a chicken carcass from a previously roasted bird.

METHOD:

Boil the carcass in water with a carrot, a celery stick, a tomato (adds a nice colour to the stock, onion, bay leaf and a couple of thyme springs.  Bring to the boil and simmer for twenty minutes or so.

Allow to cool slightly and discard all veggies but retain the carcass until cold enough to pick off any remaining meat.

Follow method above although if using matzo balls, you will have to improvise with the chicken fat unless you were organised enough to retain any from the original roasting.

Again, I mush mine using a hand mixer, but of course, this can be left ‘as is’.

This soup, however made, is a true comfort food of the highest order – hunker down on the sofa, wrap yourself in a lovely throw, a bit of telly and a bowl of this soup – fantastic!

 

 

 

Get organised for the forthcoming Season

Use January and February to get your diaries and outfits organised for the forthcoming British season.  I have included some ‘non-season’ events as well as they are all really part and parcel of our spring/summer and I enjoy them!  Dress codes have also been included for your guidance and to ensure you don’t look, to coin a popular Londoners phrase “a proper lemon”.

FEBRUARY  

14th St Valentine’s Day: A complete commercial rip off, if you ask me, best avoided.

MARCH

Here we go with the first major sporting/social event of the year.  The World famous Cheltenham Festival takes place from the 13th until 16th March.  The 13th is Champion Day, named after the Champion Hurdle race.   The 14th is Ladies Day, the 15th is St Patricks Day and the 16th is the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup day.

Dress code is tweed, tweed, more tweed and fur.  Hats, for both ladies and gentlemen, are a must, as are gloves and good boots.  Cheltenham can be very cold and wet, so ensure you are warm and comfortable.  Trust me, this is not the place for those vertiginous high heels.

APRIL

The greatest steeple chase in the world, April sees the Grand National meeting at Aintree on 12th-14th April with the great race taking place on 14th April.

GRAND NATIONAL PIC

The dress code here is a tricky one.  Personally, subject to the weather, which in April can be random, I would plump for a lighter version of the Cheltenham attire.  A lot of the race goers here wear, what one would basically call, evening dresses, strappy little numbers with the highest heels you can imagine.  Totally unsuitable in my opinion, but they are youngsters and if they want to freeze their tits off, its their call.  You will see them teetering around  on their heelies and the heels sinking into the grass – not a good look, but rather amusing to watch, particularly  as the majority of them are as drunk as skunks.

MAY

May sees the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, held on 2nd-6th May.  Badminton is not really part of ‘the season’ but it is a social as well as major sporting event in the British calendar.  The most popular day is the Saturday, which is cross country day, and is also the busiest.  The shopping here is amazing and there are plenty of eateries and bars to keep you happy.

TMitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials 2017

The ever popular water jump in front of Badminton House, top rider Andrew Nicholson on board.  Photograph courtesy of Mitsubishi Motors and photographer Kit Houghton, with warm thanks.

The dress code here is anything from Joules or Barbour, good walking boots and wet weather gear.  A Labrador or terrier are compulsory accessories; make sure they are always on secure leads at all times!

Glyndebourne Festival – 19th May – 26th August:

Glyndebourne_1

RHS Chelsea flower show – 22-26th May

sweet peas

June – Epsom Derby – 2nd June – 239th running –

Hickstead Derby –  21-24th June

Royal Ascot – 19th 23rd June

Henley Royal Regatta – 4-8th July

Wimbledon – 2-15th July, Cartier International Polo 24th July Sunday – Coronation Cup

Rolex British Grand Prix – 5-8th July, Glorious Goodwood 31st July 4th August, Qatar

Cowes – 4-11th August

Land Rover Burghley – 30th August – 2nd September