Halloween cocktail: Lychee martini

Halloween martini-1So it’s Halloween this week so what better excuse to make some frightfully potent cocktails? This is what I made the gin jelly worms for the other day, because you can never haver too much gin in a martini.

My love for gin knows no bounds

My love for gin knows no bounds

I am not a fan of vodka, I find it boring, give me a gin martini any day. I’ve also only gone and written a piece about how to make your own gin for Metro. DO IT, it’s SO easy and in just 3 days you will have the most deliciously aromatic gin you could imagine!

I use frozen blackberries as they help keep the martini chilled. You can put the blackberries in the lychees in advance then freeze them so they keep your drink super chilled without watering it down.

  • 60ml gin (my homemade one is heavy on the cardamom and works really beautifully)
  • 40ml lychee juice (from a tin of canned lychees)
  • 1 canned lychee
  • 1 blackberry
  • a few gin jelly worms
  1. Put the blackberry inside the lychee and freeze.
  2. Fill a martini glass with ice and water to chill it down
  3. Place the gin and lychee juice in a tumbler filled with ice and stir until thoroughly chilled, do not shake, you will water it down, just gently stir.
  4. Pour away the iced water and put some gin jelly worms in the bottom of the glass, pour over the gin and juice and garnish with the frozen fruit.

 

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Gin Jelly worms

OK so i forgot to take a picture before I'd eaten pretty much all of them!g

OK so i forgot to take a picture before I’d eaten pretty much all of them!g

The other day I saw a picture posted of some jelly woks made using some straws. Hmmm I thought, what’s better than jelly worms? Jelly worms made of gin obviously.

These are really easy to make so long as you buy quite big straws, unlike my tiny thin ones, an evening trying to blow gin jelly out of a tiny straw made me very nearly pass out. Luckily this made me discover that you can actually just squeeze the worms out.

I opted for multi colour ones with some edible glitter in, just because I fancied something a bit jazzy as they were going to be going into a cocktail.

  • half of 135g pack red jelly cubes
  • half of 135g pack green jelly cubes
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 360ml gin
  • edible glitter optional
  • straws
  • elastic band
  • tall glass
I forgot to take a pic of the original but you get the idea from this as to how to do it.

I forgot to take a pic of the original but you get the idea from this as to how to do it.

  1. Put your red jelly cubes in a microwavable bowl with 100ml boiling water and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Add the gin and stir well.
  2. Gather up your straws in a bundle, pull the scrunch bit to extend them all, secure with the band and stand them up tightly in the glass.
  3. Carefully pour in your gin jelly mixture half way up then put in the fridge for an hour to chill.
  4. Do the same with the green jelly but add a bit of edible glitter too then pour it into the straws to top up. return to the fridge until set.
  5. To release the straws you can squeeze the jelly out from top to bottom.

How to make mutton bacon (macon) and mutton panchetta (muttchetta)

mutton panchetta

Out of the cure and up to hang

I love bacon, when dry cured and smoked by someone that cares it can be classed as medicinal. Many a hangover has been soothed and staunch vegetarian has been broken by some well loved bacon. I also love mutton, that deep extra “lambiness” of an animal that has spent a good couple of years gently grazing on good British grass can’t be beaten. Great mutton needs to be hung for a good three weeks though in my opinion so that it becomes tender, then you can cook it pink as you would lamb or hogget.

The highlight of my day was discovering how kickass the cured mutton breast was. Deep, intense mutton flavour with a sweet saltiness and full of the aromas, just wonderful and completely addictive.

I’ve recently returned from spending time at the amazing new countryside skills and cookery school that is Vale House Kitchen near Bath. I really can’t recommend this place enough, they teach everything from fly fishing and how to prepare, cook and smoke your catch to game shooting and its cookery, foraging, bread making, the works. I wrote about them for Metro  and I fell in love with it so much (do give it a read and you’ll see why I love them so!) I’m heading back soon to learn how to shoot, yep me with a gun, bring it on!

Me with the font of food knowledge that is Tim Maddams

Me with the font of food knowledge that is Tim Maddams

Anyway, whilst at Vale House I spent some time with their head tutor Tim Maddams who you will probably know from the River Cottage programmes. After our day spent trout fishing and smoking he then prepped a loin of pork to be turned into bacon and IT WAS SO EASY. I’ve been asking my lovely butchers at Derek Jones in Melton for a while now about getting in another mutton so I can make some mutton bacon, they wait until enough people ask then get one in and divide it up between anyone that has bagsied a bit. I popped in the other day to say “Hi” as I’d been away for weeks only to be told that they had 2 mutton breasts set aside for me for my mutton bacon experiment. Ace, it was serendipity and I was off!

muttchetta

Two breasts of mutton, deboned came to around £4 as it’s just £1.50/kg, another reason why this is bloody brilliant. For the cure I opted for roughly equal sugar to salt, I went with a mix of dark brown and light brown sugar as that’s what I had on the shelves. Herbs and spices wise I had left the fennel in the garden to go to seed and that needed cutting back so that mixed with various bits and pieces from the pantry was all I needed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 deboned breasts of mutton, total weight 2.4kg
  • 1.4kg salt
  • 750g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 600g light brown soft sugar
  • 1 handful juniper berries, very lightly squeezed to open
  • 1 heaped tablespoon green cardamom pods (lightly crushed just to open)
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • stalks, trimmings and fronds of some fresh fennel from the garden
  • 2 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 sprig rosemary lightly bruised with a pestle to release oils
  • 1 small bunch fresh sage leaves lightly bruised with a pestle
Muttchetta

From left: the base layer of cure, after day 1, morning of Day 3

Method:

  1. Combine all the cure ingredients together in a big bowl.
  2. Thoroughly wash and dry the salad tray from the bottom of your fridge, yeah move those salad leaves and vegetables aside and clear the way for MEAT. Put a layer of cure mix in the bottom.
  3. Place one of the breasts on top and squish down. Cover with a layer of cure then put the other one on top and press down. Cover with another layer of cure so it’s completely covered. Don’t use all the cure mix though.
  4. Place in the fridge overnight. The following day pour off any liquid, flip the breasts around and rub more cure into any nooks and crannies, sprinkle more cure over.
  5. Repeat this the following day.
  6. On day 3 I felt the breasts were ready. They are only thin and they had firmed up nicely, if you have thick ones then you may need an extra day before this step. Rinse off the cure and pat dry. You now have mutton bacon, or macon. Fry a bit off and BEHOLD ITS AWESOMENESS.
  7. Weigh each piece and make a note of the weight. You can simply keep it as is and store in the fridge to cook as you please, as they are big I’d recommend cutting into portions and vac packing/freezing it to use as needed. I have however decided to make muttchetta so am air drying until they lose 30% of their weight. I’ve hung them in a cool place and will be keeping an eye on the weight loss until they reach 30%. I’ll let you know how I get on.
muttchetta

From left: rinsing off the cure, hanging the cured breasts, side view, cooking up some to try

The highlight of my day has been discovering how kickass the cured mutton breast was. Deep, intense mutton flavour with a sweet saltiness and full of the aromats, just wonderful and completely addictive. I’m hooked now, well and truly, I wouldn’t be surprised if over the coming weeks I attempt to cure EVERYTHING I can find. Watch this space.

 

100% spelt flour loaf (with 2 minutes of kneading)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMy cottage is old, with thick walls and high ceilings, in the summer its wonderfully cool to the extent that during this August’s heatwave I found myself leaving the cottage dressed for a crisp spring day and would have to instantly turn on my heels once hit with the wall of baking heat and remove a few layers before attempting to start the day again. Where this is glorious during the longer days of the year it’s also pretty damn Baltic come the winter.

I have an open fire in the living room and a wood burner in the dining room, on cold days like today when I’m working from home I’ll get the fire lit as soon as I’m up and about and work from my laptop next to the hearth. Today was one of those days and not one to waste a “day fire” I decided to bake some bread and use the heat to help the dough rise.

I’ve never made a spelt loaf before but had a bag of flour kicking about in the pantry. I had to pop to Tescos to pick up cat food so went and spoke nicely to the bakers who kindly gave me a big block of fresh yeast “we only measure by handfuls, one or two?”.

I’m now a convert to spelt, the loaf is rich and nutty which works so well with the sweet aromatic honey plus, its almost got the texture of soda bread which I adore. Yep from now on this is the loaf for me. It’s not a sandwich loaf though this one, it’s definitely one for spreading with butter and jam or marmite with a nice cup of tea, preferably whilst still warm from the oven.

Spelt loaf recipe:

  • 500g wholemeal spelt flour (I just guessed half of the bag of flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 400ml warm water
  • a chunk of fresh yeast the size of two match boxes (I don’t have scales)
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put flour into a big bowl, put salt on one side, make a well in the centre.
  2. Crumble the yeast into the water and stir until dissolved. Pour in the well, add the honey and oil and mix with a spoon.
  3. I keep the dough in the big ceramic bowl and just knead with one hand for 2 minutes then lift the dough out, oil the bowl, put the dough back in, cover with cling and sit it in front of the fire for half an hour.
  4. After 30 mins I knock it back, dust it with more flour then put it into a lightly oiled loaf tin. Cover with a layer of cling then back in front of the fire for another 30 mins.
  5. Preheat oven to 200C. Sprinkle more flour over the top of the dough then put in the oven for about 50 minutes or until cooked through out.

I scoffed about half the loaf instantly with salted butter and some homemade quince and vanilla jam. Laziest loaf ever.

Homemade quince and vanilla jam

Homemade quince and vanilla jam

Skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage – total comfort food

skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage-6

I’m on a bit of a veg kick at the moment, when I’ve got loads of work on I tend to cut out meat, pasta and potatoes as I find it gives me much more energy and focus. Every Sunday, if I’m home, I head to my local car boot sale to buy the week’s veg from Maureen and Bridget. I’ve spoken of these two wonderful ladies quite often on here, they live just over the border in Lincolnshire and Bridget grows the most impressive veg and Maureen is the queen of pies, fruit vinegars and lemon curd.

The weather is dreary and wet today which leaves me craving comfort food. Off I went as usual in the driving rain to get my veg and came back with a mountain for less than £10: purple cauliflower, romanesco cauliflower, cavelo nero, green and purple kale, red cabbage, purple sprouting broccoli, bunched carrots and tops (the tops make excellent pesto), green tomatoes and a net containing about 12 onions. You can also buy 15kg bags of local spuds for £3, these are vegetables of the highest quality picked just the day before and at a fraction of the cost from any supermarket/greengrocer/market trader.

Piles of incredible veg grown just a few miles away for less than £10

Piles of incredible veg grown just a few miles away for less than £10

My wonderful friend Ben Jackson told me about skirlie early this year when he was round recording Food Friday one morning. His grandmother would make it when roasting a chicken. It took me ages to track down the pinhead oatmeal, I finally stumbled across it in the butchers in Sturminster Newton in Dorset, huzzah! Never one not to make up my own recipe I turned it into a kind of rich oatmeal risotto using chicken fat and stock from the previous day’s roast chicken and instantly fell in love.

Skirlie purists look away now as this is my version and it’s the ultimate comfort food.

chicken fat skirlie

My chicken fat skirlie that made me fall in love with it

Ingredients:

For the skirlie:

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 250g pinhead oatmeal (it HAS to be pinhead)
  • 50ml cream sherry
  • hot chicken stock (or veg if you want a veggie version)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp dried porcini powder (blitz dried porcini in a coffee grinder)

8 large savoy cabbage leaves

For the béchamel: (approx measures)

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • 400ml milk
  • 1 tsp dried onion granules
  • 1 tsp dried garlic granules
  • 2 tsp dried porcini powder
  • few gratings fresh nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 handfuls finely grated strong cheddar cheese

skirlie stuffed savoy cabbage

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting. Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water, a few at a time to soften them, if the stalk is very thick at the base cut this out. Leave them to cool.
  2. In a saucepan combine the butter, onion and garlic and cook gently just to soften, don’t colour. Add the pinhead oatmeal and stir well to make sure the butter coats everything.
  3. It’s basically like making a risotto now, add the sherry and some hot stock and stir,once that is absorbed add some more stock and repeat until you can drag a spoon through the mixture and it leaves a trail on the bottom. Add the thyme and seasoning and porcini powder, stir well. You want the oatmeal to still have a bit of bite to it rather than be completely soft. Once it reaches that point simply turn off the heat and leave it to cool a bit whilst you make the sauce.
  4. Make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter, add the flour and stir, cook for a couple of minutes then whisk in the milk, keep stirring and cooking until thickened then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for a further minute whilst stirring.
  5. To assemble take a cabbage leaf and a big dollop of skirlie and make a little parcel by folding over the top, then tuck in the sides and roll the whole thing up. Put in a roasting tray, repeat with the rest. Spoon over the sauce, grate over some extra cheese then roast until the sauce and cheese starts to turn golden.

Spiced roasted cauliflower leaves (and cauli dukkah pops)

Don't chuck the leaves, they are delicious!

Don’t chuck the leaves, they are delicious!

I’m pretty addicted to making cauli dukkah poppers at the moment, but quite often I’ve taken the outer cauliflower leaves off and either given them to the chickens or chucked them in the compost, never again.

Today I kept the leaves and added them to the spice mix and then removed them part way through roasting, they were amazing. The stalk softens, the leaves caramelise and the spices are warming and salty, they lasted all of about 5 seconds, just long enough to snap a quick pic on my phone and they were gone. From now on I’ll be choosing my cauliflowers based on those with the most leaves but if you have a market near you, you will find that most of the veg traders will have a box full of the cauliflower leaves that they have trimmed off and they give them away for free for people’s chickens, free food, aces.

  • 1 whole cauliflower with leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tblsp super dukkah
  1. Preheat the oven to its highest setting, mine is about 230C.
  2. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and divide the rest into florets. Put them in a large bowl, pour over the oil then add the spices and mix really well.
  3. Spread everything out on a roasting tin and put in the top of the oven.
  4. Roast until the leaves are burnt around the edges then remove and eat. Continue to roast the cauliflower until the florets caramelise around the edges and crisp up, you want them still to be a bit soft.

Ink cap mushroom pasta with pesto and kale and pistachio pangrattato

ink cap pasta with kale and pistachio pangrattato-1

 

It’s my favourite time of the year, mushrooms, fruits and berries are plentiful around our countryside and for the happy forager it’s most definitely a bountiful harvest this year.

When it comes to mushroom foraging you really do need to know what you are doing as it can be a dangerous game of fungi roulette if you don’t. This is why I really love the ink cap mushroom as it’s so distinct in its appearance. The only thing you need to be careful with when eating ink caps is not to consume alcohol with them as sometimes they can have quite an extreme and vomity effect. I’ve gotten away with adding sherry to mine on a few occasions but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it just to be on the safe side.

I’ve also got hugely into roasting kale recently and sprinkling it with homemade dukkah and basically just munching away on it or its also really kickass when combined with green tomatoes and  a duck egg.

I’ve been away for a few days working on some pieces for Metro down in Cornwall and Somerset so didn’t have much in the cupboards upon my return. I found some ink caps growing near my sister’s house so picked them before heading home and this is the resulting dish:

Ink cap rigatoni with pesto and kale and pistachio pangrattato

For the pesto:

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 50g fresh basil plus stalks
  • 50g shelled pistachios
  • 50 grana padano cheese, finely grated
  • few good glugs extra virgin rapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the pasta:

  • 1 aubergine, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 8 ink caps, brushed to remove dirt and checked for slugs (they like to crawl inside them)
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • drizzle of oil
  • rigatoni pasta

For the Pangrattato

  • few handfuls chopped kale
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • two handfuls of chunks of stale sourdough bread
  • 50g shelled pistachios
  • seasoning if it needs it
  • glug of oil for frying

Method:

  1. Whizz up all your pesto ingredients in a food processor, loosen with oil until you are happy with the consistency and seasoning. Set aside (This will keep happily in the fridge beneath a layer of oil for at least a week).
  2. Put your aubergines and mushrooms on a roasting tray, scatter with the cilli and roast in a hot oven until cooked them remove and set aside.
  3. Make sure the kale is bone dry then roast in the oven for a few minutes until the edges are crispy but there is still a bit of softness in the centre.
  4. Blitz the pangrattato ingredients together until it is like breadcrumbs then heat some oil in a frying pan and fry until crunchy.
  5. To assemble simply stir the aubergine, mushroom and pest into the drained rigatoni and to with some of the pangrattato.
  6. Cook your rigatoni in salted boiling water until al dente.