Poached Chicken with Watercress Sauce

Poaching is an excellent way of cooking chicken that is to be eaten cold since it keeps it particularly moist. An added bonus is the stock, which can be frozen for later use.

Free range chicken weighing about 3½lb

onion

carrot

stick of celery

sprig thyme

parsley

1 dessertsp. salt

8 black peppercorns

For the sauce:

1 bunch watercress

¼ pt chicken stock

2 oz double cream

Place the chicken in a saucepan that fits it well and surround it with the flavouring ingredients. Pour on enough boiling water to come about half way up the legs. Bring back to simmering point and cover with a lid. Simmer gently for an hour, checking every now and again to make sure that the water is doing nothing more than bringing gentle bubbles to the surface, if it cooks too fast the chicken will be tough. After an hour test to see whether the chicken is cooked. With practise you will be able to judge this by waggling the legs to see if they give easily but if you’re not sure push a knife into the thickest part of the leg to see if the juices run clear. Try not to do this too often as it’s better to keep these precious juices in the meat.

Lift the chicken out carefully tilting it so that the liquid within the cavity runs back into the pan.  Keep it covered whilst you make the sauce.

Chop the watercress in a food processor then pour on the hot chicken stock which will wilt the leaves . Tip into a saucepan and add the cream then heat gently making sure the sauce does not boil which would spoil the fresh colour and taste. Taste and season if required.

Serve with Jersey Royal potatoes.

Easter Menu Recipes

NETTLE RAVIOLI

Makes 16-18 ravioli

200 g refined spelt flour

2-3 eggs (depending on size and absorbency of the flour)

Carrier bag loosely filled with young nettle tops

Oil

Butter

Clove of garlic, finely chopped

200 g ricotta

2 tbsps of grated parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)

Salt and pepper

Make your pasta dough several hours in advance; the dough will stretch more easily for having rested.

It may be frowned upon in Italy, but I usually make my pasta dough in a food processor and can judge the right consistency by when it begins to come together in a ball.  Put your flour into the food processor and crack in two whole eggs.  Process, and at this stage the mixture will probably form crumbs.  Separate the third egg and add the yolk.  Process again.  If the mixture has still not formed a ball, lightly whisk the white, to break it up so that you can add a little at a time, and do so until the mixture forms a ball around the blade.  Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it briefly on a worktop.  Put the bowl in a plastic bag and rest it in the refrigerator for several hours (up to a day).

Wash the nettle tops in a sink full of cold water.  Lift the nettles out into a colander, leaving any grass or other debris behind. Place the colander in the sink.  Boil a kettle of water and pour it over the nettles to remove their sting and wilt the leaves.  Refresh by running briefly under cold water.  Drain using the back of a wooden spoon to press out excess liquid.

Heat a mixture of oil and butter in a frying pan.  Add the drained nettle tops and cook for a minute then add the chopped garlic.  Cook for a further minute, leave to cool slightly, and then transfer to a food processor.  Process until the nettles finely chopped.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the ricotta and parmesan cheese and process again to blend smoothly.

Roll the pasta dough into sheets about 10 cm wide.  Place teaspoonfuls of the filling in a line along one (the shorter) sheet leaving a gap about the width of two fingers between each spoonful.  Dampen a circle of the dough around each pile of filling.  Lay a longer sheet of pasta dough on top of the first using your cupped finger to form a seal around the filling taking care not to create an air bubble as you do so.  Cut around each raviolo (you can use a pastry cutter, knife or scissors).  Now take each raviolo and seal firmly between your thumb and forefinger.  This is another opportunity to check for air bubbles, which you should be able to expel before sealing firmly.

Bring a large pan of well salted water to a rolling boil.  Meanwhile melt some butter in a saucepan to serve as a sauce.  Drop the ravioli into the boiling water.  You will probably need to cook them in two batches, removing the first with a slotted spoon when cooked, but they take only a few minutes.  The ravioli are cooked when they have all risen to the surface.  Drain, but only briefly, before turning in the melted butter.

Season with freshly cracked black pepper and Parmesan cheese before serving.

Kleftiko

Kleftiko apparently means “stolen meat”.  The thief would cook the meat in a hole in the ground, sealed with mud so that no steam escaped to give him away.  Nowadays the meat is enclosed in a paper, or foil, parcel but the idea is that by sealing in all the juices the meat remains moist.  Potatoes and other vegetables can be included in the parcel but remember that as well as absorbing the meat juices they will also absorb fat.  Shoulder is a more economical joint than leg, but also usually fattier.  The amount of fat depends on the breed and how it has been fed.  As the meat should cook for a very long time, until it is falling from the bone, one solution is to pour off any excess fat and add the potatoes for the last hour only.

1 shoulder or leg of hogget or mutton

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp oregano or thyme leaves

Salt and pepper

2 lemons

Potatoes

4 cloves of garlic

Wineglass of white wine

Mix the cinnamon, oregano or thyme leaves stripped from their stalks, with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a little salt.  Rub this all over the meat.

Lay the meat in a roasting tin and cover with foil.  Cook at 150˚C (fan)/ 160˚C (conventional oven) /Gas Mark 3 for 2 hours.

Remove the foil and drain off any excess fat.  Now add peeled and quartered potatoes, whole peeled garlic cloves and any other root vegetables you desire.  Cut the lemons in half and add them to the pan, cut side down.  Continue roasting without the foil.  Check the pan every quarter of an hour, turning the potatoes so that they cook evenly, and adding white wine to the pan as the juices evaporate.   It will take about an hour or so for the potatoes to cook and the lamb to begin falling from the bone.

PASKHA

Paskha (pronounced pass-ha) is the traditional dessert for Easter in Russia.  Traditionally it is made in a pyramid shaped mould, but a pudding basin will do.  The dessert is very rich so small slices should be served.  In Russia it often accompanies a yeasted cake.

750g/1½ lb cream cheese

5 tbsps sour cream

50g/2 oz unsalted butter

125g/4 oz vanilla sugar

few drops of vanilla extract

grated rind of 2 lemons

125g/4 oz raisins (plus extra for decoration)

125g/4 oz candied peel and/or glace fruits

In a food processor cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, butter, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla extract.  Chop the candied peel or glace fruits and add to the mixture together with the raisins.

Press the mixture into a pudding basin or other mould, cover with a plate and place a weight on top.  Refrigerate overnight.

Before serving dip the bowl into hot water and run a palette knife dipped in hot water around the edge to loosen.  Turn out onto a plate ad decorate with raisins arranged to form the letters “XB”, the Cyrillic for “Christ is Risen”.

CANNOLI

I spent half of one holiday in Sicily trying to track down the moulds on which the pastry tubes are formed.  Finally I found them, tubes made of thin metal that aren’t actually fully formed tubes,but open along their length so that you can make them smaller by squeezing and thus remove them from the cooked pastry.  The reason they had take so long to track down is that even in Sicily hardly anyone makes their own.  A British alternative would be brandy snaps.  Here however is Antonio Carluccio’s recipe for the original.

Makes 12-15

For the pastry:

15g/½ oz butter

1 tbsp sugar

3 tbsps dry white wine

1 tsp white wine vinegar

150g/5 oz 00 flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 egg, beaten

For the filling:

600g/1 lb 5 oz ricotta cheese

300g/10½ oz caster sugar

55g/1¾ oz candied citrus peel, chopped

55g/1¾ oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy, then mix in the wine and vinegar.  Fold in the flour and cocoa and knead to form a dough.  Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan.

Roll the dough into a large sheet about 2mm thick and cut into rectangles about 10 x 6 cm (4 x 2½ inches). Wrap each rectangle around the mould so that the points of the short side meet around the middle, seal these with a little beaten egg.

When the oil is very hot put in the cannoli, a few at a time, and fry until crisp and light gold in colour (about 1½ – 2 minutes).  Drain on paper towels and leave to cool, removing the moulds.

To make the filling beat the ricotta cheese and sugar with a fork.  Mix in the candied peel and chocolate.  Fill the cases just before serving.

Beremeal Bannocks Recipe

This recipe comes from The Creel restaurant, St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney

100g beremeal

100g plain white flour

1 tsp cream of tartar

2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsps sour milk/beer/milk and yoghurt/buttermilk

Sieve the dry ingredients together.  Mix with the sour milk to make a very soft dough.

Turn out onto a beremeal coated board and divide the mixture into two.

Bake in a well-heated dry pan on top of the cooker for 5 minutes a side.  The rounds may then be divided into individual farls.

Sorrel Recipes

ORZOTTO WITH SORREL

This recipe is adapted from a risotto with sorrel that used to be served by Gennaro Contaldo at his restaurant Passione.

Serves 2

1 litre (1½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock stock

2 tbsps olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

225g (8 oz) pearled barley

50g (2 oz) sorrel

50 g (2 oz) butter

25g (1 oz) parmesan cheese, freshly grated

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the stock in a saucepan with a level teaspoon of salt and bring to a gentle simmer, leave over a low heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan.  Add the finely chopped onion and celery and sweat until soft.  Add the pearl barley and stir until each grain is coated with oil.  Add a couple of ladlefuls of stock and cook, stirring all the time, until the stock has been absorbed.  Continue adding ladlefuls of stock until the barley is tender, i.e. soft on the outside but al dente inside, this will take about 30 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the sorrel, butter and parmesan.  Mix well with a wooden spoon to obtain a creamy consistency, taste and adjust the seasoning.

SORREL SAUCE FOR FISH

½ litre strong fish stock

50 g butter

30 g flour

50 ml white wine

250 ml double cream

15 g fresh sorrel, shredded

Heat the fish stock to simmering point.  In another pan melt the butter and stir in the flour.  Cook very slowly over a low heat for 30 seconds and then gradually whisk in the fish stock.  Pour in the white wine and simmer gently for 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened.  Add the cream and reduce the sauce until it is of a thick pouring consistency.  Add the shredded sorrel immediately before serving and season to taste.

Bristol Easter Biscuit Recipe

10 oz plain flour

7 oz butter

5 oz castor sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)

2 oz currants

1 or 2 egg yolks

6 – 8 drops oil of Cassia

Mix all of the ingredients together adding a little milk if too dry.  Roll out to about  ⅜”/1 cm thick and cut with a fluted cutter.

Bake at 160˚C (conventional oven) for 10-15 minutes, until very lightly browned.  Sprinkle with caster sugar as soon as you remove the biscuits from the oven, then cool on a rack.

Notes

The original recipe said 6 drops of oil of cassia, my mother-in-law has now increased this to 8, but do count the drops carefully as too strong a flavour of cassia ruins the biscuits.

Likewise, according to my husband, the biscuits are RUINED if they are cooked for too long.  According to him, they should retain some substance in the middle and not be too biscuity.  He does have some technical description of the degree of resistance to snapping the biscuits should have, but it is a bit too complicated to explain – let’s just say they shouldn’t snap too easily!

You can read more about the origins of this recipe here

 

Classic Egg Recipes

Scrambled Eggs with Chanterelles

Classic Egg Recipes

The following are a mixture of my own recipes and a collection of notes from some masters of their craft.  Take the time to perfect these classic dishes and you will cook them for a lifetime.

Omelettes

“An Omelette and a Glass of Wine” is the title of one of Elizabeth David’s collections of food writing. She suggested that it evoked the idea of an elemental, almost primitive, meal but at the same time went on to give the topic of cooking a good omelette all the attention it deserved.  Elizabeth Davis is more known for her evocative writing style than precision of instruction, but even she acknowledged the importance of the perfect omelette pan – a heavy one with a perfectly flat base.

She also tells the story of a celebrated restaurant on the Mont-St-Michel in Normandy, which was renowned for its wonderful omelettes.  Speculation about how such wonderful omelettes were made appeared in magazines and cookery books until one day the proprietress, a Madame Poulard, replied to a letter in magazine called La Table.  She wrote:

Here is the recipe for the omelette:  I break some good eggs in a bowl, I beat them well, I put a good piece of butter in the pan, I throw the eggs into it and I shake it constantly.  I am happy, monsieur, if this recipe pleases you.

 

Unlike Elizabeth David, Delia Smith is known for her precise instructions.  She says…

Let me say first that the size of your frying-pan is as vital for good omelettes as for many other things…a two-egg omelette, for instance, needs a 6-inch pan, whilst a four or five egg omelette calls for a 10-inch pan.  Too few eggs in a large pan make a thin, dry (and probably tough) omelette.

Beyond this the other key points she makes are: that the eggs should not be over beaten, just lightly mixed, that the pan is pre-heated without butter, and then, when hot, you throw in the butter which should immediately foam (but not brown), swirl it around to coat the base, then add the eggs and continue shaking or tilting the pan so that the liquid egg runs to the edges.  When it is almost, but not quite, set, fold the omelette in half and then tip it out, upside down, onto a plate.

Omelette fines herbes

Omelette fines herbes

This is a classic French variation in which fresh herbs are added to the eggs, ideally 30 minutes before cooking to allow them to infuse their flavour through the eggs.

Fine herbes is the name given to the classic French mix of parsley, chives, chervil (in roughly equal proportions) plus a little tarragon.

Perfect Scrambled Eggs

 I remember watching one television programme in which the Roux brothers disagreed on the best method for cooking scrambled eggs.  I remember it involved setting the eggs in a metal bowl above a saucepan of simmering water so that the heat was applied very gently – it took forever.  I find that provided you have a saucepan with a good solid base that will conduct heat evenly that is sufficient.  Don’t use a non-stick pan as it prevents the egg from coagulating.

Duck eggs are lovely scrambled and, if you want to return them to their shells for serving to enjoy their pretty blue colour, the top of the shell can be removed by sawing with a finely serrated knife.  Don’t worry if one or two break, as you will need the contents of one and a half to two eggs to refill each shell once scrambled.  The method is however exactly the same whatever eggs you are using.

To serve 2:

butter

4 duck eggs

1 tbsp double cream

salt and pepper

fresh chives

Set the heat very low and melt sufficient butter to cover the base of the pan.  Break the eggs into a bowl and mix lightly with a fork to blend the yolks with the white – do not add any other ingredients as they will get in the way of the protein molecules bonding and so slow down coagulation. 

Tip the eggs into the pan and stir with a wooden spoon over the gentle heat.  The best spoon for this job is one that has a point on one side to get right into the sides of the pan.  Continue stirring and do not be tempted to increase the heat.  The eggs should cook very gently and evenly to a creamy consistency.  If you increase the heat you are likely to get lumps.  When the eggs have thickened stir in a tablespoonful of double cream, which will arrest the cooking as well as increase the creamy flavour.  Season with salt and pepper and a few snipped chives.

STEPHEN MARKWICK’S LEEK AND CREAM TART

This recipe is absolutely typical of Stephen’s style – it sounds so simple and yet every detail has been perfected with sublime results.

In his book A Very Honest Cook Stephen notes…You may spot that this tart contains a fair amount of cream but that’s what makes it taste so good – I’m afraid you can’t do a slimline version.  A general point about tarts: they’re much better made deep than shallow – you seem to get more depth of flavour and texture.

Serves 8 as a starter, 6 for a main course

For the pastry case:

20cm/8″ deep tart tin

225g/8 oz plain flour

150g/5 oz butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

Pinch of salt

Put the flour, salt and butter into a food processor and pulse until breadcrumb consistency.  Turn into a mixing bowl and add just enough cold water to bring the mixture together (between 4 and 6 tablespoons depending on the time of year – you need less water in the summer).  Don’t overwork the mixture, handle it as little as possible, and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.  Line the tin, leaving the pastry overhanging the edges, then chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Whilst it is chilling preheat the oven to 200˚C/Gas Mark 6. 

Now line the pastry case with a double layer of clingfilm – unlikely as this may sound.  Fill with baking beans (if you don’t fill it the sides are likely to collapse into the dish).  Bake for 15 minutes then remove the beans along with the clingfilm.  Return the tart to the oven to crisp up and lightly brown.  (Note: I brush it with a little of the beaten egg from the quantity for the filling below for this step. SW) 

For the filling:

1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced

300g/10½ oz thinly sliced leeks

50g/2 oz butter

2 tsp chopped thyme

2 tsp chopped parsley

4 medium egg yolks + 1 whole egg, beaten

50g/2 oz Gruyère cheese, grated

50g/2 oz Cheddar cheese, grated

400ml/14 fl oz double cream

Salt, pepper and nutmeg

Heat the butter gently and cook the leeks and thinly sliced onions for a few minutes but not too long as you want to keep their green colour.  Add the thyme and parsley and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Leave to cool before adding half of each of the cheeses and the beaten eggs.  Mix well with a wooden spoon and pour in the cream.  Stir well, taste and adjust the seasoning if required.

Carefully pour the mixture into the tart case. You want to fill it right to the top, so it will be easier to transfer it to the oven before adding the last of the mixture.  Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top.  Bake at 200˚C/Gas 6 for about 20 minutes then turn the heat down to 180˚C/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 10-15 minutes.  If the tart is browning too much move it to the bottom of the oven.  It doesn’t matter if the filling is still slightly wobbly when you remove it from the oven because it will firm up in the residual heat while you’re resting it.

Rest before attempting to trim off the excess pastry – a serrated knife does the job best.

Scotch Eggs

First made by Fortnum and Mason as picnic fare, the Scotch Egg is enjoying a revival as a bar snack in gastropubs.  The difference this time around is that instead of being served cold they are now enjoyed warm, with the yolk of the egg still runny.  Making them this way takes time and effort but the results are a world away from the tired greying examples we have become used to seeing.  Mini versions made with quail eggs are fashionable canapés.

The most difficult part of the process is getting the egg just right.  They need to be firm enough to handle – remember you need to peel away the shell and then wrap the egg in sausagemeat, but if the centre is still to be soft when you cut into them they can’t be hard boiled.

Many different recipes exist for boiling the egg.  You can place them in cold water and then bring them up to simmering point before starting the timing – but then identifying simmering point can vary by around the same amount of time as you wanted to cook the egg anyway.  This method is however useful if you have forgotten to remove the eggs from the fridge before cooking as to place them straight into simmering water from cold would make them liable to break.

So my preferred method is to have the eggs at room temperature for at least an hour in advance then gently lower them into the water when a steady stream of bubbles are breaking the surface but the water is definitely not rolling.  I would then cook a size 3 egg for 4 minutes – adding or subtracting half a minute for a size larger or smaller than this.  Immediately the time is up, replace the hot water with cold leaving the tap running until everything has cooled right down.  Peel the eggs whilst they are still slightly warm.

The quality of the sausagemeat is paramount.  You can read my previous comments on what makes a quality sausage here.  450 g of sausagemeat will cover 6 eggs, that is one good sized sausage per egg – you may find it easier to buy the quality of sausagemeat you want buy buying it as sausages.  You can of course add any additional herbs or spices to the mix when you flatten it out, but be careful not to buy too coarse a mix or it will be difficult to shape around the egg.

Whilst the eggs are cooling lightly toast the breadcrumbs on a tray in a low oven, then, when you remove the breadcrumbs and leave them to cool, increase the oven temperature to 190˚C.

Flour a work surface and pat portions of the sausagemeat out so that each piece will enclose an egg.

Have two other bowls at hand, one containing flour and the other an egg lightly beaten with a tablespoonful of milk.

Place the peeled egg in the centre of the sausagemeat and then transfer the whole to the bowl of flour – you will find it easier to shape using lightly floured hands and with a little flour adhering to the sausagemeat.  Now dip this in the beaten egg and then roll it around in the tray containing the lightly toasted breadcrumbs.  Shake off any excess breadcrumbs.

Preheat some oil in a deep fat fryer until it reaches 190˚C.  Deep frying is the best way to create a crisp seal quickly.  Cooking just two eggs at a time two minutes should be enough to have achieved a seal and to brown the breadcrumbs but will not have cooked the sausagemeat right through.  To finish this part of the cooking and so that all the eggs can be served at once, place them on a tray in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Served immediately the centre of the yolks should still be soft.