Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food – Take Two

I’ve already written a glowing review of Tom’s first book here and the accompanying TV series starts on Monday evening at 8:30pm on BBC2. In honour of this (and my sister’s birthday – she’s very very old) I whipped up a few more recipes from “Proper Pub Food”.

Gin-cured salmon with buttermilk pancakes

I’ve been wanting to try curing my own salmon for a while and this was the perfect opportunity. Tom recommends wrapping it all in cling-film but that seemed like a recipe for a rather wet disaster – luckily I have a vacuum packing machine ready to go so I sealed everything in that. The result was gorgeous – a delicate cure with real hints of gin an juniper. Heavenly. The pancakes are really nice – light, fluffy and with a slight lactic tang from the buttermilk. It’s served with a dollop of creme fraiche, maple syrup and a few crushed juniper berries. It would be an amazing breakfast!

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Venison with chocolate red-wine sauce, butternut squash and peppered sprouts
Venison and chocolate is a well trod dish – but the addition of the sweet squash is a revelation. This recipe is quite fiddly – with five separate components that all need to come together at once. Because venison is so prone to over-cooking I took the decision to sous-vide it and giving an amazing texture – really tender and delicate. The puree is great, though you really do need to pass it through a sieve as he suggests to get it smooth enough. The whole dish really sings and the sprouts add a lovely peppery earthy note.

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Rum and date cake with toffee sauce

I’ve done this before and I did it again because it’s so good. The toffee sauce is just brilliant. I served it with a really special Pedro Ximenez sherry which brings out the rich molasses flavour – a perfect match.

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Ramen

Regular readers will have noticed my recent japanese noodle obsession. There’s something really wonderful about a bowl of richly flavoured broth, soft but slightly chewy noodles and piles of delicious toppings. Having sampled some of the best ramen london has to offer (Tonkotsu and Shoryu) as well as several of the chain versions I decided to give it a go myself.

I’m an enormous fan of Momofuku so it seemed obvious to attempt their recipe. Broadly speaking there are two stages – preparing the broth and then bringing all the components together. Making really good stock is no light undertaking – you need slow careful cooking, broadly speaking more time equals more flavour. Several restaurants quote up to 24 hours for their stocks – unfortunately that’s not really feasible for a home chef, but nonetheless, on a quiet Saturday I gathered all the ingredients and set too.

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Momofuku’s stock is based on layers each one adding something new and building a very complex flavour profile. You start by boiling up and steeping your water with konbu, which is an edible kelp that contains a lot of natural MSG. In a traditional recipe you’d now add katsuo-bashi (shavings of petrified rotted fish) but Momofuku get’s their umami hit from bacon. This relatively light seaweed and savoury stock is called ‘dashi’ and is the basis of almost all ramen.

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Next we boil up some chicken to add richness and a light meaty flavour. They use a lot of pieces, but don’t despair – once it’s finished the leftover meat is great for soups, salads and sandwiches.

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Once it’s boiled for a few hours you switch to some roasted pork bones – this is the heart of the ‘tonkotsu’ style ramen. The pork bones simmer as long as possible before being switched out for some vegetables.

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Once your broth is finished you need to skim off the frankly scary layer of fat and portion it up ready for future use. The final step is to season the broth using ‘tare’. Since Momofuku provide a recipe I made my own by cooking down some chicken carcasses with mirin, sake and soy sauce. The result is a thick sweet/salty liquid that tastes very intense..

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The actual assembly of the finished dish is relatively straightforward and you can use whatever toppings you like. I followed Momofuku to the letter and went with pork belly, pulled pork shoulder, fish cakes, slow-poached eggs, nori, greens, braised bamboo and spring onions. Fresh ramen noodles are surprisingly hard to get hold of, thankfully Shoryu sell their (incredibly good) version for you to cook at home.

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What did it taste like? Pretty good for a first attempt! The broth is lovely, if ever so slightly over seasoned – especially after a whole bowl! I was worried it would taste too ‘porky’ but if anything more bones would have helped! In terms of toppings – next time i’ll slow cook bigger pork joints so they’re much softer and add something with a bit of ‘crunch’, little bits of pork crackling would be great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memories of Gascony

Pierre Koffman is a hugely important figure in british food. He worked at Le Gavroche, The Waterside Inn and opened La Tante Claire. With an impressive CV, the next generation of chefs trained and three michelin stars under his belt he retired from the restaurant business.

Until recently when his pop-up restaurant at Selfridges was an instant sell-out and shortly after he opened ‘Koffman’s at the Berkley’ serving french classics which combine rustic influences with luxury ingredients. His love of food and cooking style is heavily influenced by his youth – chronicled in ‘Memories of Gascony’.

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Growing up he spent long school holidays on his grandparent’s farm – surrounded by food and a fiercely independent local cuisine. The book itself is really beautiful, first published in 1990 it has been out of print for a while. It contains a lovely selection of recipes and stories covering a year on the farm, the various harvests and crops each being showcased. Last weekend I cooked a couple of recipes to see how they stack up. You can also read about his famous trotter recipe here.

Wild Pigeons with Armangac

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Designed with a rustic french kitchen in mind this whole recipe requires just one pot. As is common in Gascony, he uses duck fat as his oil of choice. When used to seal the pigeon it adds a lovely richness and fragrance. Armangac is another Gascon speciality and works beautifully with the rich gamey meat. A great dish and very easy to make – I served it with some simple steamed vegetables and aligot as a main, but it would work equally well as a starter.

Pistachio Soufflé

I adore soufflés. They have a distinct ‘wow factor’ and are surprisingly quick to make. Koffman’s recipe is very easy and, if followed carefully, should be very reliable. On the first batch I got so much lift that the tops hit the roof of the oven! Pistachio paste can be hard to find (Whole Foods let your grind your own) but provided you have a good food processor you can simply blend the unsalted nuts yourself. I served it with a vanilla ice cream and some grated chocolate.

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The flavour is gorgeous – nutty, savoury and with just the right hint of sweetness. The contrast between the bready, slightly chocolatey outside and the soft gooey centre is really nice. Delicious.

Conclusion
‘Memories of Gascony’ is a great book, as Jay Rayner notes “If you don’t own a copy… your cookbook collection is not complete”. The recipes range from the simple and hearty to the complex and refined. Like all my favourite books there are dishes which even the most tentative of cooks can manage while there are also ones which would make keen chefs sweat. Units are sensible and ingredients are relatively common – the odd wildcard (fresh blood, unusual game) can easily be substituted using a bit of creativity.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it – make room on your bookshelf, get some great ingredients and transport yourself to a Gascon farmhouse for an evening.

‘Memories of Gascony’ by Pierre Koffman, RRP £30 is published by Mitchell Beazley and available now in all good bookstores.

Pitt Cue Co. and More

Pitt Cue Co.

Barbecue as a concept means vastly different things depending on your background. It can be as simple as a sausage grilled outside to a complex multi-stage smoking of an entire carcass. Regardless of it’s definition it’s certainly delicious and a fantastic way of enjoying some of the more unusual cuts of meat.

Pitt Cue Co. has taken the blogging scene by storm – the queues outside are testatment to their ‘cue prowess. You can’t book, the menu is simple and unpretentious, and the restaurant tiny. Turning up on a weekend afternoon, I was very unsure we’d get in but after a short wait we were shown to our table.

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The food is incredible. Generous portions of tender flaky meat slathered in rich smokey sauces. The sides are magnificent too – I went for bone marrow mash and brussel tops but the grilled leeks are stunning too.

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My pulled pork was just perfect – piggy, soft and with just the right amount of seasoning. It was served with a lovely sour slaw, which helped cut through the richness and a very nice home made pickle. I also plumped for some rib tips – the odds and ends left over from tidying the racks slow cooked and slathered in hot sauce – magic.

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If you can get a table, and you’re longing for something meaty, uncomplicated and fun – I can’t think of a better place to go!

The Black Swan
Situated just outside Ockham in Surrey, The Black Swan is everything you could want in a country gastro-pub. I went for their starter platter which is incredible for two to share. Welsh rarebit, rabbit sausage rolls, potted venison, potted trout, scotch quails eggs, devils on horseback, pickled walnuts, onion chutney, piccalilli, Norbury blue (a delightful soft blue local cheese) and salad. It’s quite a meal.

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Chinese Cooking
Making some more recipes from ‘Every Grain of Rice’ I whipped up some slow cooked beef with bamboo tofu, stir-fried cabbage and dried shrimp and a tiger salad. Exotic, yummy and dangerously good.

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Michel Roux: The Collection

Michel Roux, alongside his brother Albert, have perhaps done more for British restaurant cuisine than anyone. Dragging it kicking and screaming from the mid-seventies horrors of ‘chicken in a basket’, Le Gavroche and The Waterside Inn are landmarks in england’s culinary landscape. Their kitchens have transformed our view of classical french cuisine and have nurtured the careers of numerous future stars, not least Gordon Ramsay; and their sons, Michel Jr. and Alain.

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In his latest book, Michel draws together a selection of his recipes from a variety of areas, including everything from quick breakfasts to desserts. He covers basic culinary staples like stocks and pastry making as well as more classical dishes, like Coquille St Jacques and Bouillabaisse.

The book is beautifully laid out – with lovely photography and detailed explanations of complicated techniques. Measurements are sensibly chosen and ingredients shouldn’t be too difficult to find. I wanted to pick something simple but fun, so I went with croissants.

Recipe – Croissants
Reproduced by kind permission of Quadrille Publishing

Makes 12-14 small croissants (1.1kg dough)

Ingredients
25g Fresh yeast (available from any bakers)
250ml Tepid milk
275g Butter (cold but not too hard)
12g Fine salt
50g Sugar
500g Plain flour
Egg wash (1 yolk mixed with 1tbsp milk)

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Method

Making the Dough

Dissolve the yeast in the milk in a bowl. Put the flour, salt and sugar in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix at low speed, gradually adding the yeast mixture. Stop working the dough as soon as it comes away from the sides of the bowl, the texture must not become too elastic.

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Cover the bowl with cling film and leave the dough to rise in a warm place (at about 24°C) until doubled in volume; this should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Knock back the dough by flipping it over with your hand to release the carbon gas, but do not overwork it. Cover the bowl again with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but not more than 8 hours. Knock back the dough in the bowl again, then transfer it to a lightly floured work surface.

Shape the dough into a ball and cut a 5cm deep cross in the centre. Roll out the 4 sides to make flaps. Bash the butter into a rectangle with the rolling pin and place it in the centre. Fold the flaps over the butter to envelope it completely.

First turn – Lightly flouring the surface as necessary, roll the dough out to an 80cm x 30cm rectangle. Fold the rectangle into three. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Second Turn – Give the chilled dough a quarter-turn, roll out to a rectangle, fold again, wrap and chill as above.

Third and final turn – Roll the dough out in the opposite direction from the previous turn to a rectangle and fold as before. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes (no more than 1 hour).

Shaping and Baking Croissants

You will need a triangular cardboard template, measuring 9cm across the base and 19cm high. Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the dough (after its final turn) to a 65cm x 40 cm rectangle, 3mm thick. Lift it slightly off the work surface and flap to aerate it and prevent it from shrinking. Trim the four sides of the dough with a chef’s knife, then cut it in half lengthways to make two even sized bands. Using the template as a guide, cut the dough into triangles.

Lay a dough triangle on the work surface with the base towards you. Use the knife to make a 2cm deep incision in the middle of the base, pull the 2 points of the bas slightly, then pull the point of the triangle.

Roll up the triangle starting from the base and continue until you reach the point. (For a savoury croissant, lay a slice of ham at the base before starting to roll). Turn the points inwards to form a crescent. Repeat to make the other croissants as quickly as possible.

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Place the croissants on a baking sheet, spacing them apart and lightly brush with egg wash, starting on the inside and working outwards so that the dough doesn’t stick together and prevent the croissants from rising properly.

Put the baking sheets in a warm, preferably slightly humid place (at 25-30°C) and leave the croissants to rise for 1 hour until they have almost doubled in size. When they are nearly ready, preheat the oven to 160°C (Gas 3). Lightly brush the croissant with egg-wash again and bake for 12-14 minutes.

The Verdict
The croissants were gorgeous – light, fluffy and very moist. Next time out I’ll be a little more generous with the egg wash, but I’m really pleased with the result!

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The recipe was easy to follow, the ingredients should be in any cupboard (apart from the fresh yeast, which is available directly from the bakers of any large supermarket) and none of the techniques should cause any trouble to even the most timid chef. I do have one top tip for whenever you are doing ‘multiple folds’ for things like puff pastry: make a small dot mark with a finger to show which ‘turn’ you’re on (e.g. two dots for the second turn). It’s very easy to forget when you take it out the fridge!

The book is really lovely and i’m looking forward to trying out a number of other dishes which i’m sure will make an appearance on here over the coming months. If you’re looking for a comprehensive introduction to french cooking – look no further. It’s a miniature Escoffier for the modern age.

Michel Roux: The Collection, RRP £25, is published by Quadrille and is available from all good bookshops.