Luxury pork pie with orchard jelly

Pork pie is my father’s desert-island dish, something he’d eat every day given a chance, so for most of my adult life I’ve baked him one every year instead of a birthday cake, which he does his best to keep to himself, fending off the predations of my mother and sister (and me!). This recipe has been slowly developed for him over the years, to the point where I feel confident in saying it really is the ultimate.

Luxury pork pie with orchard jellyUnlike traditional pastry made with lard, this souped-up hot water crust dough uses the fat from the magnificent Iberico pig, which you can get from certain posh food retailers these days. It is super-soft, so really needs the overnight chilling to firm it up, and I prefer to crimp my pastry after chilling, so you get a neater finish. Spend time making sure the seal is right, smearing edges with a damp finger if necessary, as any cracks will let precious juices seep out. The stock recipe makes twice what you need but can’t really be made in a smaller batch, freeze the rest for another pie or use it to make a fabulous pea & ham soup.

Luxury pork pie with orchard jelly
Makes 1 large pie

For the hot water crust pastry:
600g plain flour
1 tsp fine salt
100g Iberico pork fat
100g unsalted butter
3 medium eggs (2 for the dough, 1 to glaze)

For the jellied ‘orchard’ stock:
1 full pork trotter (all the way up to the elbow) or 2 small feet, split (get your butcher to do this)
2 apples, roughly chopped
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of sage
1 fresh bay leaf
500ml medium dry cider e.g. Aspall’s
500ml fresh chicken stock (homemade or from a tub in the chiller cabinet)*

For the pie filling:
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp white peppercorns
750g skinless pork shoulder, cut into 5mm-1cm dice
250g skinless pork belly, minced
250g smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
16 sage leaves, finely shredded
1 tsp ground mace
½ tsp cayenne pepper

You will also need a 20cm round springform cake tin, base lined with greaseproof paper

Start with the pastry. Put the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Put the two fats in a small saucepan with 200ml water and put on a low heat just until the fats melt (do not let it boil or you will drive off too much moisture). Pour the fat and water mix into the well in the flour and stir in, gradually incorporating the flour into the liquids. Lightly beat 2 of the eggs then add to the bowl and mix just until you have a cohesive dough. Don’t mix more than necessary otherwise you’ll activate the gluten which will make the pastry tough. Separate out a quarter of the dough for the lid. Shape both large and small balls of dough into flattish discs, wrap each in clingfilm and chill for an hour until firm enough to roll out.

To make the jellied stock, put everything into a tightly fitting saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest flame possible and simmer very gently for 4 hours. Strain through muslin for a really clear stock and chill until needed.

For the filling, crush the white peppercorns and sea salt in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. Combine all the filling ingredients with a really generous grinding of black pepper and mix really well with your hands. At this stage it’s a good idea to fry a spoonful of the mixture off in a small pan and taste to check you like the seasoning.

On a floured worktop roll the large ball of pastry out to a large circle big enough to fill the tin on the base and all the way up the sides. Put the rolled out dough in the cake tin and smooth it up the sides, pressing it into shape with your fingers and making sure there are no gaps or thin patches. Fill the pie with the pork filling. Try and keep the filling nice and loose, don’t pack it down or there’ll be no space for jelly. Run a wet finger around the top edge of the pastry. Roll out the top section pastry to a 23cm circle and place on top the pie, pressing gently at the edges to seal. Loosely cover with clingfilm and chill overnight.

The next morning preheat your oven to Gas 4/180°C. Cut a small cross in the middle of the pie lid and fold the edges back to make a steamhole. Crimp the edges of the pie with your fingers, ensuring you have a really good seal. Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush over the top – don’t discard the remaining egg just yet. Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 45 mins. Reduce the heat to Gas 3/160°C and cook for a further 1 hour 15 mins. Carefully release and remove the springform tin (use a cloth to protect your hands), brush the sides with egg wash and return to the oven for a final 15 mins. Allow to pie to cool slightly before filling with jelly.

Reheat 250-300ml of the jellied pork stock until piping hot. Place a small funnel or piping nozzle in the steam hole of the pie and gradually add the stock. Do it slowly and carefully, you will need to lift and tilt the pie periodically to evenly distribute the stock. When you absolutely cannot get any more stock into the pie let it cool completely. The pie is best served at room temperature, but if you’re not eating it at once you’ll need to pop it in the fridge once it’s cool.

*I make my own fresh chicken stock cubes by making a batch of stock from a roast chicken carcass and boiling it down until you’ve got a thick sticky reduction, then freeze it in ice cube trays. Two reduced stock cubes like this is enough for the stock here. If you don’t have, or can’t get, fresh stock don’t use regular stock cubes as their distinctive taste will mar the other flavours, plain water is a better bet.

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Gram flour waffles with Cola-braised beef (or chili con carne)

Gram flour waffles with Cola-braised beef (or chili con carne)2012 really was the year of the savoury waffle. Waffles came as sides to deep fried chicken (e.g. Rita’s, not to mention Glady’s Knight’s feature on Man V Food), smothered in shaved or pan-fried foie gras (fain daining restaurants across the land), and as a base for every slow-braised ‘deep South’ meat dish from pulled pork to chili. Twenty-twelve was also the year I finally got a kitchen where all my many gadgets can come out to play, having finally got enough storage space to have them within reach of a kitchen counter.

(BTW…Yes I know we’re halfway through 2013 already. It’s taken me a while to get round to posting this, okay? Waffles still rock.)

One of my most-loved but underused items rescued from long-term storage is a German waffle maker, brought back from Frankfurt for me by my sister’s friend’s parents when I was about 12 years old. I’d only ever made sweet waffles in it, but encouraged by the mood du jour I decided it was time for a savoury test, one to accompany a batch of cola-braised beef, but you could of course use your favourite recipe for chili con carne, or try mine.

Gram (chickpea) flour waffles

150g Gram (chickpea) flour
100g plain flour
generous pinch English mustard powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp salt
3 medium eggs, beaten
425ml whole milk
115g unsalted butter, melted & allowed to cool slightly

Sieve the gram flour, plain flour, mustard powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, milk and cooled butter in a jug, then pour gradually into the flour, whisking all the time to gradually combine dry ingredients with liquid. Preheat your waffle iron to medium. Cook a ladleful at a time, until golden (how long will depend very much on your own waffle iron). Keep the waffles warm in a low oven, covered with foil, while you make the rest.

To serve:

  • 4 portions Cola-braised beef*, chili con carne or some saucy pulled pork
  • Apple coleslaw (just replace half the cabbage in your favourite recipe with grated green apple with a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • Grated cheese

Deliciouso, I hope you’ll agree!
See the full post for my cola beef recipe…

Chocolate coffee cupcakes with orange cheesecake icing

Chocolate cupcake with orange cheesecake frostingThese incredibly easy cupcakes use the magical reaction of vinegar and baking powder to create a light and fluffy texture but you’d honestly never know the vinegar was in there I promise. Because of this kitchen alchemy they are completely dairy free, until you smother them in this delicious icing that is, in which the orange and vanilla balance beautifully against the coffee in the cake, but if you wanted to keep them vegan a simple icing of orange juice and icing sugar would still be lovely.

Super-simple chocolate coffee cupcakes with orange cheesecake icing
Makes 12 cupcakes or 20 fairy cakes

225g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
225g granulated sugar
½ tsp fine salt (if using flakes – Maldon for preference – powder them in a pestle & mortar first)
1½ tsp good-quality instant coffee (I like Kenco Millicano wholebean instant)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or Madagascan vanilla extract)
6 tbsp olive oil
For the icing:
50g white chocolate
100g full-fat cream cheese
50g soft unsalted butter
½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
Zest of 1 small orange
250g icing sugar
Edible glitter, to decorate (optional*)

Ready on for the rest of the recipe…

Chillies and Mexican Food – the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge roundup

Fiery Roasted Red Pepper Salsa For anyone who loves chillies proper Mexican food is a real treat – the Mexicans grow and use probably more varieties of chilli than any other country, from the fiery habanero to the smokey chipotle and everything in between.  This month I am delighted to be the host of the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge, and hope you will find some inspiration in the fabulous flavours of Mexico which our contributors showcased this month. As usual the rules were simply that the dish had to contain chilli in some form, and the style of cuisine – as this month celebrated Cinco de Mayo – was Mexican, natch.  Starting the fiesta is the queen of the Chilli Challenge herself, Lyndsey, who put forward a fiery roasted red pepper salsa of such stunning proportions I defy anyone not to want to grab one of those tortilla chips and dig in.

Tango Like Raindrop was actually the first off the blocks with this colourful mango Pico de Gallo salsa, a fruity twist on a classic recipe:

Mango Pico-de-Gallo SalsaAnother mango offering came from Janet of ‘The Taste Space‘, this time as an accompaniment to a healthy twist on a Mexican favourite – Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos

Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos‘Farmer’s Girl’ Janice Pattie went super-meaty with these Lamb Steaks with Adobo Seasoning Lamb Steaks with Adobo SeasoningChris of ‘Cooking Around the World’ took the challenge to a new level (and won the heart of my hubby, who’d tried & failed to persuade me to do the same) by making his own tortillas for these delicious sounding mini Garnachas with tomato-apple salsa:

Garnachas with tomato-apple salsaMy contribution to the month’s round-up had to be the much-maligned (in TexMex restaurants anyway) but genuinely Mexican favourite Faijitas, using a homemade version of a store-bought sauce and a variation on the classic salsa Pico de Gallo

Mexican fajitas with pico de galloAnd finishing the roundup was another contribution from Lyndsey, some delicious Grilled Fish Tacos

Grilled Fish Tacos If you’d like to take part in, or host, a future Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge you can find all the information you need here.

DIY butter – (and scones) – homemade kitchen alchemy

Homemade butterWhat’s that you say? You’ve never made your own butter? Oh daaaarlink, you simply must – it’s so easy!  I was amazed recently by how many people reacted with surprise when I said you could make your own butter in just 5 minutes, using nothing more than an electric mixer and some double cream. In fact, you don’t even need the electric mixer – if you cast your mind way back you might even recall making it in a jam jar at primary school. But unless you still have the boundless energy of a 7-year-old, or the arm muscles and equipment of a 19th century dairy maid, I strongly recommend using the electric mixer.

Homemade butter won’t necessarily taste substantially different or better than anything you can buy (although if you do it with delicious farm-fresh organic cream it will certainly knock the socks off anything Lurpak can produce), but it is just such fun – watching the transformation of a common kitchen substance (cream) changing state from liquid to solid, plus of course you get a delicious bi-product (buttermilk) which just cries out to be baked with, ideally into something you can slather your lovely new butter on.

Whilst we’re on the butter and milkmaid topic, if you fancy a cheap giggle Google ‘butter churner’ then look at the 3rd search result* (adults only!)
Read on for the recipe and more lovely illustrations!

Beetroot tartlets with chilled pea cream

Beetroot tartlets with chilled pea creamDespite the (hopefully sarcastic) pleas of my friends, I have no desire to ever enter Come Dine With Me – the dinner-party-show-cum-torture-device, as (quite apart from the inherent humiliation involved) dinner parties are really not ‘me’ – I simply cannot remember the last time I produced a formal, three-course meal. If I ever WERE to give in however, this is definitely the dish I’d make, being super-easy to make ahead, deliciously tasty and with lots of wow-factor. And if you’re not the dinner party type either, it makes a fabulous light lunch and surprisingly enough even travels well (chilled) for picnics or packed lunches!

Beetroot tartlets with chilled pea cream
Serves 6

350g raw beetroot
2 medium white onions, peeled & finely sliced
Butter, for frying
30g light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
a few thyme sprigs
1 x 375g pack all-butter puff pastry
100g frozen peas
100ml double cream
1/2 lemon
75g hard goats cheese

You will also need 6 x 9cm diameter tartlet moulds/tins, lightly greased with butter or oil.

Continue reading for the recipe….

Brownie Bake-Off

Another interlude from the layman.

I, perhaps somewhat rashly, promised everyone at work brownies if I got a good response rate to a questionnaire that I sent out. Which is why I spent a Sunday afternoon with the oven on, and the scent of chocolate slowly driving my partner crazy.

As I work for an environmental charity, we have a higher than normal proportion of vegetarians and vegans in the office, so some of the brownies were going to have to be vegan friendly. Emma had also passed me a rather gorgeous sounding brownie and cherry recipe to try out and the idea of the brownie bake-off tool hold. Then to make it more interesting: how do shop bought mixes compare to making brownies completely from scratch? Enter into the ring the brownie mix that I often keep in the cupboard for chocolate emergencies, and a supermarket own brand version and we have a four-way taste test.

The first thing that I noticed is that the supermarket mix and the brand name mix require you to add the same ingredients to the packet mix and in the same quantities, leading me to wonder if there is actually any difference between the two at all! A closer inspection of the ingredients lists for both showed that the brand name mix seemed to have fewer ingredients (and more pronounceable ingredients) than the supermarket equivalent.

The plus side of both the packet mixes was how quick they were to make: mix in water, oil and egg and shove in the oven. Easily done.

I had some problems with the cooking time of the brand packet mix, and it took me a lot longer to cook than instructed, hence why there aren’t as many on the plate…the rest was all stuck to the inside of the tin. But I suspect this is mostly due to me trying to cook the brownies in a loaf tin as they have previously always come out quite well. But hey, in a very small kitchen there will always be limitations.

The vegan brownies were also extremely easy to make. As they don’t use butter or eggs, and use oil instead, it was again quite an easy case of chucking everything in a bowl and giving it a really good stir.

The cherry brownies were always going to be the most complicated, but although definitely more time-consuming than the other three, they were still quite easy. And they’ve left me with a jug of cherry syrup to do something with. I think that might be a great accompaniment to some plain vanilla ice-cream, but I’m open to suggestions.

From the taste perspective, I think one of the most important things with brownies is not to eat them too quickly. No matter how tempting it may be, there’s no point in eating them straight out of the oven, as they won’t have developed that lovely gooeyness until they’ve cooled down and can taste quite spongy before then.

The most noticeable taste difference between all of the brownies is that the packet ones are much sweeter than the home-made ones. This initially gave the impression that they were more chocolatey, but are actually more sickly.

With the two home made ones, I was sensible enough to use baking parchment in the tins, rather than just greasing the tins as I did with the first two. This made it a lot easier to keep the shape of the brownie afterwards, and reduce the losses (although my partner did enjoy getting to eat the bits that got stuck to the tins).

At work, they all seemed to go down well, and I think I’ll be in my colleagues’ good books for a few days. Although I do now feel guilty about not catering for the wheat intolerant in the office. Next time I’ll do something special for them.

Updated to add: the vegan brownies improve with age! Can’t comment on the others, they’ve all gone!

Continue reading “Brownie Bake-Off”

Topless Tart: Roasted baby tomato and pesto tart with a Parmesan crust

Roasted tomato & pesto tart with Parmesan crustIt’s been a long time since I took part in a food blogger event, but I couldn’t resist joining in with this month’s cheekily titled ‘Topless Tarts’ Monthly Mingle, hosted by one of my favouritest bloggers, Jeanne of Cook Sister!

For me, a homemade tart is all about the pastry. There’s no end of clever and tasty fillings for a tart, and shops have sold most of them at some time or another, but where a homemade tart can beat shop-bought hands down is with carefully made, fresh from the oven, tender, crumbly pastry – there’s just nothing to beat it! The key to good pastry is twofold: keep everything cold, and work fast. For the serious cook with time on their hands, I would advise a one-to-one session with an expert, exploring all the nuances of the words ‘chopping in’, ‘pecking’ and ‘frasiering’ – pâtissiere terms for the three delicate manoeuvres used to create top quality pastry in restaurants. For the more everyday, I would recommend a Magimix. The food processor will work far faster than you ever can, and by not touching the pastry yourself you avoid the pastry getting hot and greasy. You can even chill the blade in advance (if you’re that organised!) for even better results.

With most types of pastry, chilling it before rolling, and again after lining the tart tin, protects against shrinking during cooking. The hefty amount of Parmesan in this crust means some shrinking is unavoidable as the cheese melts, so make sure you use a deep tart tin and line it all the way to the top, so when it is cooked it will still be several centimetres deep.

Read on for the recipe…

Delicious Failure: Kasutera (Castella) Cake

Kasutera (Castella) CakePosting about a recipe which failed isn’t normally something I’d bother with, but after reading up on the subject I realised that failure with one’s first Kasutera Cake isn’t just common – it’s obligatory. Do a quick online search now for this delectable Japanese cake and you’ll find literally hundreds of posts which start “I thought I’d never crack this…” (or words to that effect) so I feel better that mine didn’t turn out right.

This cake is fiendishly difficult to make, requiring a slavish amount of whisking that makes me wonder how this recipe was ever achieved, never mind invented, before the advent of the electric whisk, and although my result wasn’t the mountainous slab of fluffy sponge it was supposed to be, I know that when I do get it right it will be worth it, because even as it was it was simply delicious. Rich, but not too sweet, the honey gives it an extra edge that regular cakes made with sugar and vanilla can’t match – it almost tastes like it’s good for you! Mine was dense and fudgy, much more suited to a pudding than afternoon tea, so I simmered some frozen mixed berries to accompany it (without sugar – the sharpness pairs well with the honey) and it was wonderful. And I’m pretty sure I know what went wrong too! I’m going to keep working at it until I’ve produced a near-foolproof recipe, but in the meantime if you want to try your own Kasutera cake, check out this excellent blog post over at Kirbie’s Cravings which inspired me in the first place.

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win tickets to the BBC Good Food Summer Food Show!