JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, August 21, 2009

Shepherd's pie with horseradish mash

Tessa made the most delicious shepherd's pie for dinner - tasty mince with a horseradish-tinged mash. You don't need me to tell you how to make mince, except to say that it's lamb for a shepherd's pie, beef for a cottage pie. Tessa uses more flour than I do, which makes a good thick sauce.

Horseradish mash

This amount will cover about 1.5kg of mince made with plenty of vegetables and put into a large shallow dish (say, 35cm x 25 x 5). It's enough for 10.

1.5kg floury potatoes, peeled and chunked
50g butter
3/4 jar creamed horseradish (around 120ml)
a little milk
100g grated Cheddar sprinkle over the top of the pie

When the potatoes are cooked, mash them with the butter until they're smooth (Tessa used a ricer to be sure there were no lumps). Beat in the horseradish and enough milk to give the mash a soft consistency for spreading.

When the pie is assembled, it needs about half an hour in a hot oven (180C). It's a great dish to make ahead when there are lots of people to feed ... and the horseradish really gives it an extra edge. Thanks Tessa

There's a heatwave where I live ...

... but I'm on holiday in Scotland, and it's been pouring with rain for days ....

... so in Mull they have to put a tent over their washing if they've any hope of getting it dry!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mussels, from farm to plate

Yesterday, Tessa and I went to the mussel farm at Loch Spelve to buy a big bag of moules for supper. I'd never been to one before, so was unprepared for the sight of a JCB pouring mussels onto a conveyor belt leading in to the packing shed. There, six or seven nimble-fingered people were sorting the shells - picking out the small or cracked ones, letting the rest go past and into a holding tank, before being packed and sent off to the mainland. Not many of the mussels are eaten in Mull - this is a lucrative cash crop, and the family-run farm is a reliable employer in an area where jobs are scarce.

We put the money in an honesty box (in Edinburgh, half the mussels cost twice the price) and went home. Tessa cooked them like this:

5 kg mussels
5 medium onions
5 shallots
5 cloves of garlic
100g butter
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
375 ml water
375 ml dry white wine

Clean and check the mussels under cold running water. Sweat the finely chopped onion, shallot and garlic in a little of the butter. After about 10 minutes, add the parsley, water and wine, and cook for five more minutes. Add the mussels, clamp on the lid, and leave to steam over a low heat so that the shells open. Shake the pan occasionally. It should take about five minutes.

Strain the mussels in a colander, letting the juices fall into a saucepan. Reduce them down, then lower the heat and whisk in the butter. You can also add a little cream if you have some.

Put the mussels into a heated tureen and pour on the sauce, plus extra parsley.

The fresher the mussels, the better the dish. But you didn't need me to tell you that. Nor that Tessa's were delicious.

Old-fashioned parkin

At Beamish they were making Parkin the old-fashioned way:

Fabulous coal range .... and did you notice the bread oven to the right? If you want to make Parkin - a kind of north country flapjack - just mix the ingredients together, shape the biscuits (or spread into a tin to cut into squares when it's cooled), and bake in a hot oven. Mmm

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A lighter crumble mix

Traditional English crumble mixture uses equal quantities of butter and flour, and a bit more sugar (say, 4oz butter, 4oz flour, 6oz sugar). Last night I put a lighter crumble topping on some very sharp stewed plums ... using ground almonds meant I could use less butter, and gave the crumble a pleasing nubbly texture too.

These were the proportions I used:

125g plain flour
85g butter cubed
4 tablespoons caster sugar
100g ground almonds

Blitz the flour and butter to breadcrumb texture, stir in the sugar and almonds. Put on top of prepared fruit (or some pre-stewed fruit) and bake for half an hour at 180C if the fruit is already cooked, longer if not.

No pic, this post is mainly for my reference

Yet more roast potatoes

The boys made roast potatoes for dinner last night. The theme was (clue: stars and stripes in roasting tin) largely American, in honour of their cousins ... a Golden Gate bridge, a Grand Canyon, a few Bart Simpsons, a Micky Mouse, a fabulous hamburger. Alfred tried to make a tractor with moving parts, but it wouldn't reassemble after the potatoes were cooked. They did, however, manage a working chest of drawers. My father was given an Eiffel Tower - much better than the one Horatio made a couple of years ago, this one was edible all the way through (the dogs wouldn't eat the earlier effort).

Once again, I got a flower with a hole in it, and we all know that roast potatoes with holes in taste sweeter .... if you don't believe me, I urge you to conduct your own tasting

Related links

A couple of summers ago, the boys were adamant that my "girlie" roast potatoes didn't quite cut the mustard, and so we ate them three nights in a row, while everyone put their oar in ...

The roast potato taste test

That's enough roast potatoes

and then, a little later, disaster struck the water supply, and I was reduced to buying Frozen roast potatoes

This week's girlie potatoes that started them off last night ...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Imam biyaldi -ish

My sister and two of her sons are visiting from California, so we're at least eight for every meal - more often, though, into double figures, and fetching chairs from all over the house, even when we're eating in the garden.

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are a tangle of good intentions thwarted, but even so, there is lots of fruit to pick if you can find it in the jungle of untied plants. And so our salads have been beautiful.

With so many in the house, food needs to be simple to produce - but with so many young men, it also needs to be plentiful. Last night, we ate roast chicken, roast potatoes, courgettes, and a simple imam biyaldi, which I made by splitting aubergines lengthwise, baking them in a hot oven for 20 minutes before smearing them with a tomato sauce made by cooking down the remains of a tomato salad. They went back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so.

For pudding, we ate Tartuffo - my pa, who is in his late 80s and no longer eats much, had thirds, fourths, possibly even fifths. It's Willie Harcourt-Cooze's recipe, and I made it with his Peruvian Black chocolate and lovely yellow Guernsey cream from the Berkeley Farm dairy on the Marlborough Downs. The pudding was stirred while my sister and I caught up with a year's worth of family minutiae ... it doesn't get much better. Except that tonight, my sons are going to cook the roast potatoes, always a good moment, and my father has ordered one in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.

Related links

A couple of summers ago, the boys were adamant that my "girlie" roast potatoes didn't quite cut the mustard, and so we ate them three nights in a row, while everyone put their oar in ...

The roast potato taste test

That's enough roast potatoes

and then, a little later, disaster struck the water supply, and I was reduced to buying Frozen roast potatoes

Things to do with tomatoes

Roasting tomatoes
Roasted tomato ketchup
Slow roasted tomatoes
Homemade tomato ketchup - and caponata-ish
Chilli jam
Preserving tomatoes in brine

Tasty tomatoes to grow
Dry-bottled tomatoes

Links to tomatoes on other blogs

Fried green tomatoes - haven't you always wanted to know how to make these? Here's how, from the blog at the Whistlestop Cafe
David Lebovitz's take on an heirloom tomato salad
Gazpacho from Kalyn's Kitchen

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cheese and olive puffs - and Evelyn Waugh's letter about Ld Glasgow's trees

Last night at supper, talk turned to the topic of thank you letters. I have just received a particularly effusive one from a friend of Horatio's: a real pleasure ... incredibly kind of you to provide such a feast both for supper and for breakfast ... no better place to be ... etc etc. This was regarded as both a very good letter to send to a mummy AND as a little over the top (but probably because it was written several weeks after the event.

Lucius was having none of it: Not interesting ... no point in writing a letter if it didn't say something ... bah humbug.

Here's his idea of a letter worth writing (mine too, although I don't think it would do as a bread and butter letter):

No.3 Commando was very anxious to be chums with Lord Glasgow, so they offered to blow up an old tree stump for him and he was very grateful and said don't spoil the plantation of young trees near it because that is the apple of my eye and they said no of course not we can blow a tree down so it falls on a sixpence and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever and he asked them all to luncheon for the great explosion.

So Col. Durnford-Slater DSO said to his subaltern, have you put enough explosive in the tree?. Yes, sir, 75lbs. Is that enough? Yes sir I worked it out by mathematics it is exactly right. Well better put a bit more. Very good sir.

And when Col. D Slater DSO had had his port he sent for the subaltern and said subaltern better put a bit more explosive in that tree. I don't want to disappoint Lord Glasgow. Very good sir.

Then they all went out to see the explosion and Col. DS DSO said you will see that tree fall flat at just the angle where it will hurt no young trees and Lord Glasgow said goodness you are clever.

So soon they lit the fuse and waited for the explosion and presently the tree, instead of falling quietly sideways, rose 50 feet into the air taking with it ½ acre of soil and the whole young plantation.

And the subaltern said Sir, I made a mistake, it should have been 7½ not 75. Lord Glasgow was so upset he walked in dead silence back to his castle and when they came to the turn of the drive in sight of his castle what should they find but that every pane of glass in the building was broken.

So Lord Glasgow gave a little cry and ran to hide his emotions in the lavatory and there when he pulled the plug the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head.

This is quite true.

Letter from Evelyn Waugh to his wife, 31 May 1942

My nephews, who are staying, now face the prospect of writing two letters each, so that they please us both.

These not cheese puffs are what we ate with pre-dinner drinks, very good. It's from a recipe in yesterday's Guardian mag by the baker Dan Lepard; he calls them black olive gougères

175g drained Kalamata olives
1 large clove of garlic
1 tbsp chopped thyme (rosemary would do too)
50ml olive oil
150g strong white flour
3 eggs
75g grated parmesan, plus more when reheating

Blitz the olives, but stop before they turn to a mushy paste. Meanwhile, bash the garlic to a paste. Put this with the herbs and oil into a saucepan, add 125ml water and bring to the boil (no time at all). Tip in the flour, beat until it forms a ball, then add the eggs one by one, beating thoroughly each time. Lastly beat in the cheese (I used very strong Cheddar in the mix, parmesan to finish).

Using two teaspoons, scoop balls of the mixture onto a non-stick baking sheet and bake in a hot oven 200C (180C fan) for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a rack. Plate them and sprinkle with a little finely grated parmesan and leave until you are ready to put in the oven to warm through. (I found 120C wasn't quite warm enough to melt the grated cheese, so turned the oven up a little.)