Game Pie

Game Pie

To those reading this, I hope you had and continue to have, a very pleasant Christmas! I most certainly did having spent most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, cooking, drinking and eating in roughly that order. The mixture of Ale, Red Wine and Single Malt Whisky is not a combination I would recommend in fairness, but then it is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ and was hoping for a Boxing Day hangover reprieve. Unfortunately…..no.

I got the turkey from Northumberland Poultry this year and it was as delicious as it was massive (10Kg/22lb). It was however, for all intents and purposes, just a roast and therefore I thought I’d post something I’d made a couple of days earlier.

I had this Game Pie at a pub recently where it was part of a Christmas Menu, and loved it so I thought I’d try it out having never made one before for some strange reason. The wine is important here so use one you’re happy to drink. I used a Shiraz wine which is suited to game meat – some to cook with and some to enjoy with the results! The meat a pre-prepared diced mix from a supermarket, which wasn’t ideal, but never the less turned out nicely. It was a mixture of pheasant, mallard, partridge and, I think, pigeon. I added a couple of chicken thighs too as I needed to make it go a bit further.

I used a shop bought roll of puff pastry for the top though – I’m not a masochist ;). I do confess this may upset one of my friends who will insist this is not a pie, but a ‘stew with a hat’, but I hate to say I prefer this way sometimes as I’m not always in the mood to too much pastry. Also, and admittedly it’s a hollow gesture this time of year, it’s also slightly healthier of course!

We ate this on its own although a sweet potato mash would have been very good on the side we thought.

Serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are, and takes 4 hours to 24 hours, depending on how long you have.

Ingredients:

  • About 500g of diced mixed game meat (I had 350g and made up the rest with chicken)
  • a handful of lardons or sliced bacon (about 4 slices)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • a knob of butter (it was Christmas)
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 1 large celery stick, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 onion finely sliced
  • About 10 juniper berries
  • 300ml Shiraz wine (or any decent strong and ‘fruity’ red)
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 1 boquet garni of thyme and rosemary
  • 2 tsp cornflour mixed with a little water
  • I ‘squirt’/tbsp of tomato puree
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 340g sheet of pre rolled puff pastry, or the same amount rolled 1/2 cm or 1/5 inch thick if in a block
  • 1 egg, beaten

Start by frying off the meat/bacon in the oil in a hot pan until well browned. Add the butter once nearly done (so as not to burn it) and reduce the heat a bit. Stir in the onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes at the lower heat with a good pinch of salt. Finally add the rest of the vegetables/berries followed by the wine, stock and tomato puree.

Add a generous twist of black pepper, but the bouquet garni on top, and gently simmer with the lid on for about 2 hours. The cooking liquid should be reduced, but stir in the the cornflour mixture at the end to thicken (if necessary). Taste and season if necessary.

Game Pie Mixture

Pour the mixture into a pie dish bearing in mind that the mixture needs to leave small gap at the top to accommodate the pastry. Allow to cool/rest preferably covered and left ovenight as it will be tastier the next day like any stew. I couldn’t wait that long though!

Once ready, preheat the oven to 190°c/370°f/Gas 5. Cover the dish with the puff pastry and use a knife to trim off the excess neatly. Use a fork to seal the pastry against the sides and a sharp knife to score (but not cut through) it in a criss-cross fashion.

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Paint the beaten egg on the top of the pastry with a pastry brush and place it in the oven for around 30-40 minutes until risen and browned all over.

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Helen’s Florentines

Sorry it’s taken a while to getting round to posting this, but I wanted to put Helen’s Florentines on here. They always taste great, and that’s coming from someone who does’t have a particularly sweet tooth. For some reason they always remind me of Christmas, I don’t know why particularly, maybe it’s the colours of the glacé fruits she uses.

They were made as a ‘secret Santa’ gift and from what I gather they were well received, and rightly so as I love them. So I present, via Nigella’s Domestic Goddess cookbook, Helen’s Florentines:

Florentines

Ingredients:

  • 100g sliced almonds
  • 150g mixed glaced fruit and candied peel, chopped
  • 25g butter (unsalted)
  • 90g brown sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  • 150ml double cream
  • 200g belgian milk chocolate (to dip in)

Get the oven on and set it to180°C/350°F/Gask 5.

Start by melting the sugar and butter together in a pan and then mix in the flour to make a ball, it should be very smooth so mix it well. Add the double cream and again, mix well to remove any lumps.

Mix in the fruit and nuts and stir to combine it all.

Line a baking tray or two (depending on how big it is) with greaseproof paper or silicon sheets. Spoon a tablespoon full of the mixture onto the paper – don’t worry about it forming a ‘mound’ it will melt and spread in the oven. Add another far enough away from the first bearing in mind it will spread out. Repeat using all the mixture up.

Florentines before baking

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool thoroughly, on a rack preferably  (but leave them to cool on the baking tray slightly first or they be to difficult to move). Whilst cooling, put the kettle on to boil some water….

Melt the chocolate by either a) melting it in a glass bowl sat over (not touching) a pan of simmering water, or b) microwaving it gently.

Helen only covers half of the Florentine in chocolate as it’s easier to hold that way and you don’t end up with it on your fingers – just either dip it in the chocolate or paint it on using the back of a spoon or pastry brush.

Leave them to cool on a rack again.

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Sprout Croquettes

Sprout croquette

I must admit, and maybe it comes as no surprise considering I write a food blog, I’ll eat pretty much anything. Except tinned tuna of course; quite how anyone can is beyond me. Other than that though, pretty much anything.

Sprouts are pretty close to dropping off that list mind you and sit somewhere in the ‘tolerable’ category for me. Maybe it’s a childhood thing, or the fact they taste how they smell, a pungent cabbagey flavour. I love cabbage mind you, so I suppose I’m actually none the wiser.

Anyway, with Christmas day rapidly approaching, I thought I’d look at a few alternative methods of cooking them. Stir-frying them with bacon and/or chestnuts was the alternative last year and worked well enough, but then it hit me.

Deep frying, the last resort of the health conscious – surely this is a method that cant fail? It got me thinking and I came up with a kind of croquette. I quickly Googled the idea, and found I was far from the only one who’d come up with this sadly, but still. The beauty of this of course is that you can add flavours however you fancy. I added some potato to keep the thing bound together and the result was very good indeed. The offensive vegetable was mellowed and I actually found myself eating two or three of these. So, I though I’d share it with you.

To save time on the day, I think I might make the potato mixture the day before and cover it. It’ll just be case of skipping to the end then…

Makes 4 golf ball sized croquettes, just multiply them up as many as you need.

Ingredients:

  • 6 sprouts, thinly sliced.
  • 1 medium potato (any mashing variety), quartered.
  • 2 pieces of streaky bacon, chopped – leave it out for a vegetarian version, or replace with goats cheese.
  • A couple of springs of thyme, leaves only
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Breadcrumbs
  • One egg, beaten

Simply peel, quarter and boil the potato until cooked in a small pan. Strain it out of the water with a slotted spoon, roughly mash and set aside.

Blanch the sliced sprouts in the same water for a few minutes until softened. Don’t overdo it or they’ll be too soggy.

In a small frying pan, quickly cook the bacon, if using. It’ll only take a minute or two.

Mix the potato, sprouts, bacon (or goats cheese), a little salt, pepper, thyme and allow to cool. If this is for the next day, cover and put in the fridge at this point.

Sprout croquette

To prepare to fry them, heat the deep fryer, or just use the frying pan with plenty of oil. Whilst heating, crack the egg into a bowl and beat thoroughly. In a second bowl, pour in the breadcrumbs.

Roll and shape the mixture into golfball sized pieces. Cover in the egg, removing any excess, then roll in the breadcrumbs until well covered.

Fry gently at about 150°C or 300°F for a few minutes until nicely brown. They can keep in the oven until you’re ready to plate up, but try and do them at the end of cooking to stop them going soft. Enjoyable sprouts – a minor miracle!

Slow Braised Thai Pork

Braised pork thai broth

And so here it is, the last week of work ahead of Christmas. Helen is busy away in the kitchen making Florentines (more on that tomorrow…) and so I thought I’d post this dish I made a little earlier in the week.

The idea for this came from a comment I made a few weeks back with a fellow blogger and was itself inspired by a dish I once had. A couple of years ago, on a trip to Vegas, we threw caution, and a sizeable wad of cash to the wind and tried Joel Robuchon’s restaurant ‘Robuchon’ in the MGM. It was the one and (most likely) only time I’ve tried a 3 Michelin starred restaurant and with it being in the same hotel as we were staying, and my birthday, couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Luckily, I did OK at Blackjack that week. Phew.

I’ll be honest, I felt a little fraudulent eating there, especially with the man himself sat at the table behind us. The service though. Wow. We were held up on arrival as our table was still occupied. It wasn’t a problem, we were just enjoying ‘being there’ and having a drink in the lounge area, but they comped us his signature dish by means of an apology regardless. A lobster ravioli in foie gras sauce by the way, and it was amazing.

Anyway highlight for me was a dish of far more modest means – a slow braised beef cheeks in a thai broth. The flavours were fantastic and so strong. I’m suprised it took me so long to get round to attempting to recreate it. I couldn’t get beef, so I used pork cheeks and by poaching it in a thai flavoured stock for a few hours, it becomes beautifully tender and full of flavour. I added some enoki mushrooms and red peppers at the end to make it a bit more substantial and served it up with plain Jasmine rice.

I must admit, whilst I doubt it came anywhere near the dish I had that evening, I was very pleased with the outcome and will be definitely doing it again.

Serves 2. Takes – all day if you can!

Ingredients:

To poach:

  • 400g pork cheeks (about 4 large pieces)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 inch by 1 inch piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 litre chicken stock.
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 pieces of lemongrass – bashed with a rolling pin
  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar (I didn’t have any palm sugar 😦 )

To finish:

  • two handfuls of enoki mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper finely sliced
  • 1 large handful of coriander finely chopped, stalks and leaves
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves, shredded.

Heat the oven to 130°C (fan), gas mark 1

Take a large casserole pot and start by well browning the pork in the oil on the hob. Add the chilli and garlic for a few minutes then the stock. Deglaze the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well, put the lid on the pot and slow braise for 4 hours.

After that time, it should be amazingly tender and the stock reduced to concentrate the flavours. Strain the stock through a fine sieve, and again through a muslin cloth if you have one (but not essential). Return the pork to the pan with the stock, add the mushrooms and peppers and gently heat for a couple of minutes so as not to overcook the vegetables. Just before you serve it, stir in the coriander.

thai broth close up

Falafel and Tahini Sauce

Hi everyone. I promise I’m trying hard to get in the festive spirit at the moment, but rather than winding down for Christmas, my day job seems to be winding up!

I was hoping to post some more festive recipes and findings this week, but I’ll leave that until next. In the meantime, I decided to make some distinctly cheery falafel.

A staple in the middle east, it’s quick, easy, filling, tasty and yet healthy, a bit of a Holy Grail then. It can be as mild or spicy as you like, I like it hot, Helen likes it mild, so I made it somewhere in the middle!

I managed to get some tahini paste in town the other week (a mixture of crushed sesame seed and oil) to make a simple tahini sauce recipe that I shamelessly ‘borrowed’ from BBC Goodfood’s website. It was the first time I tried and it and it’s delicious, a really nice background flavour that I think would work in a whole range of dinners.

Falafel

Ingredients:

Falafel:

  • 400g chickpeas, or 200g dried.
  • 1 handful of parsley
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1 handful of breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 and onion roughly chopped
  • Oil for frying

If using whole coriander and/or cumin seeds, dry roast them first in a frying pan and pound to a powder in a pestle and mortar. If using dried chickpeas, soak overnight and simmer beforehand for about 45 mins – 1 hour until cooked. Let them go cold.

To make the falafel, simply – chuck everything into a food processor and blitz until a smooth but thick (shapeable) paste.

Divide the mixture evenly, either lots of small falafels, or a few larger ones as you prefer. Roll then into balls and flatten slightly. Preferably then leave in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up, but I often just get them straight in the pan…

Heat a pan big enough to hold the falafel without being too big (or you’ll need too much oil) and fry on both sides until crispy and brown. About 5 minutes in total should do it.

In the meantime, you can make the sauce by mixing 5 tbsp of yoghurt with a heaped tsp of tahini, a good pinch of salt, chilli powder and juice of half a lime. Taste it and adjust it as you see fit.

That’s it! Simply serve it up on flat bread or pittas. We made our own bread (from 50g white/50g brown flour, 60 ml water, pich of salt, halved and rolled thinly and cooked on a hot cast iron pan), but for speed I often use shop-bought.

Tahini Sauce

Fegola with samphire, chilli and prawns

fregula samphire prawns

There’s an Italian restaurant in Newcastle called Panis Cafe; a no fuss, typically loud, always busy cafe style place near the Theatre Royal (for those that know the city). It’s one of my all time favourites, with consistently good and authentic Southern Italian dishes. I would just mention as well that the service is the fastest I’ve ever experienced, with a plate of food arriving literally minutes after ordering even when at it’s fullest. I guess years of catering for theatre goers will do that though.

It was here I first tried fregola (or fregula? – they spell it both ways on their menu). They’re small pieces of semolina pasta from Sardinia which have been toasted so they have a distinctive nutty taste. It took me a while to find it in shops but a small independent deli, appropriately named mmm sells it in a local market.

After trying a few variations, I personally think it’s best served as Panis do, with a light wine sauce with seafood, but I also used it in soups and it works well.

This was another spur of the moment type dinners. We went to see the Black Keys play last night and so needed something fast before we set off. I had some samphire in the fridge which is fairly commonly (and cheaply) available theses days and is delicious. It’s a coastal plant and therefore has a robust and salty flavour which is great with seafood, naturally.

This serves 4 and is ready as soon as the pasta is cooked, so about 15mins.

Ingredients:

  • 300g Fregola/Fregula pasta
  • 1 tbsp sea salt for the pasta water
  • Optional – vegetable bouillon powder – but make sure you add less salt to the pasta water
  • 200g large prawns roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Quality Extra Virgin olive oil (to finish)
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 2-3 good handfuls of samphire about 150g
  • 2 large tomatoes (preferably skinned), diced
  • 1 large glass of white wine
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 knob of butter (optional)
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • Black pepper

Start by getting the kettle on for the hot water (I promise I did this before reading Jamies’ 15 minute meals!!)

Whilst that’s happening, prepare all the ingredients and leave to one side on a board ready to use as it all happens quickly one the pasta is in.

Put the pasta in a large pan with the salt and stock powered if using. I’m not sure it’s authentic, but I think it adds a nice flavour! There is salt in the stock though, so adjust the amount extra you add.

Pour over the water and bring to a rapid boil. It’ll take about 10 minutes, so time to get on…

Add the olive oil to a small frying pan, heat gently and fry off the garlic and chilli for a minute with a good pinch of salt. Stir in the prawns and briefly colour followed by the wine and the tomatoes. Scatter the samphire on the top and leave to reduce for 3 or 4 minutes. The heat/steam will help cook the samphire without over doing it.

Check the fregola, it should be nearly done, without being over done. You can now finish this one of two ways!

1. Drain the fregola (reserving some of the pasta water) whilst slightly underdone, and return it to the pan with the sauce and a few table spoons of pasta water. Heat gently with the lid on to finish cooking. Stir in the butter once done.

OR

2. Once it’s ready (try it), drain it, keeping a little of the pasta water in case you need it.

Put the cooked & drained pasta back in its pan, stir in the butter if using followed by the sauce and mix thoroughly. Add a little of the pasta water if its too dry.

Either way, finish by stirring in the chopped parsley and a little ground black pepper and plate it up in pasta bowls. Drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil to taste.

I like to add a little parmesan and mop it up with some good bread too. Love it.

 

Goats cheese and Walnut Salad

There’s been a distinct lack of blog updates recently I admit and for the most part that’s been due to a fair bit of eating out. More on this later actually…..

And so, having eaten far too much rich food over the last week or so, this week, or what remains of it will focus on ‘lighter’ food. Tonight I made a goats cheese and walnut salad, with pear and a honey dressing. I’d had this classic combination a number of times, but the best was during a meal in an almost desserted Clube de Jornalistas in Lisbon where we sat outside in an amazing rear courtyard. I think the fact a thunderstorm had only just petered out had something to do with the lack of patrons.  Maybe only the Brits and our reluctant ability  to endure the rain were able to venture out that night!

This isn’t a complicated dish and therefore depends in part on the quality of the ingredients, particularly the goats cheese which should be smooth with a ‘saltiness’, rather than the the acidic supermarket approximations. I think next time it would benefit from some sweet cured bacon pieces, but nevertheless we both enjoyed this.

Serves 2, takes 10 minutes tops.

Ingredients:

  • Two large handfuls of Frisee lettuce, washed and dried
  • 4 walnuts, chopped roughly
  • 200g goats cheese, the best quality you can get/afford
  • 1 pear, peeled and thinly sliced

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used garlic infused rapeseed oil)
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Salt (a good pinch) and Pepper to taste

Simply arrange a layer of frisee lettice on each plate and add  some of the goats cheese. Pile the remaining frisee on followed by the remaining cheese and walnuts.

Mix up the dressing ingrdients thoroughly. Peel and slice the pear thinly and layer on top of the salad.

Finally, use a teaspoon and drizzle the dressing over both salads.

Simple as that!

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