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.


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.

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….

My ultimate hot ‘Buffalo’ wings and blue cheese dip

Ultimate hot Buffalo wings and blue cheese dipLook good don’t they?  Juicy, saucy, yet crispy….I love hot wings but so often find that you can either have them crispy, or saucy, not both; and unless you’re deep-frying them saucy usually means the skin is all soft and flabby which frankly, doesn’t appeal.  This recipe uses that top American trick with poultry – brining – to impart flavour into the meat and also, crucially, to keep the meat juicy when baked at the high temperatures needed to create a lovely crisp, dry skin which is normally impossible without deep-frying them.  To further encourage a crisp exterior I toss the wings in gram flour, which crisps beautifully when the wings are introduced to the hot fat in the baking dish, and also tastes much nicer than regular wheat flour.

‘Buffalo’ hot wings with creamy blue cheese dip
Serves 2 greedily

900g-1kg chicken wings
1/2 x 148ml bottle Frank’s red hot sauce
25g gram flour
1 tsp cayenne
15g butter

For the brine:
1 litre water
3 tbsp sea salt
3 tbsp chilli flakes

For the creamy blue cheese dip:
100g soft blue cheese (e.g. creamy gorgonzola)
100g sour cream
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 rounded tbsp mayonnaise
pinch salt

First make the brine by dissolving the salt in the water (this is easiest if you dissolve the salt first in a splash of boiling water, then top up with cold water), then stir in the chilli flakes.  Immerse your chicken wings in the brine, ensuring they are completely covered – weigh them down with a small plate if necessary – and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, make your blue cheese dip: simply place all the ingredients in a mini food  processor or in a tall jug with a stick blender, and process until smooth.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6 and place a large roasting dish in the oven to heat at the same time – the dish must be large enough to take the wings in a single layer.

When the oven is hot and the wings are brined,  add a large spoonful of fat – schmaltz, lard or ghee are best, to maximise flavour, but vegetable oil will do – to the hot roasting dish, and return to the oven to get piping hot. Drain, rinse & pat dry your brined wings. In a large bowl toss them in 2 tbsp of the hot sauce then in the flour and cayenne. Carefully place the wings in the hot fat, skin-side down and bake for 50mins-1hour until tender and crisp, turning once (carefully – the skin is fragile!).

In a small saucepan or in a microwave very briefly heat the butter with the remaining  hot sauce until the butter is just melted, then pour over the crispy baked wings and toss well to coat.  Serve with the blue cheese dip and lots of napkins. Go Nicks!

This is my entry for round 5 of the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge – Game food.

Sweet heat chilli challenge

Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce

The provenance of this recipe is quite mixed – the leeks are of course quintessentially British, the soy and ginger in the dip are very Chinese (as is my accompaniment of egg fried rice), but I’ve added a touch of Vietnam too with the white peppercorns – a pungent and aromatic spice that is so different from regular black pepper, and which instantly transports me with memories of my honeymoon.  The result is, I think, a very happy fusion and quite unlike anything I’ve had in any restaurant, whether it be Chinese, Vietnamese or any other.

Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauceMaking these gyoza is super-easy if – like me – you keep a packet of gyoza ‘skins’ or wrappers in the freezer. Commercially sold gyoza skins are so much thinner than anything you can make at home and are perfect for quick steamed dumplings like these (though if you want to pan-fry these you could of course make up a batch of your favourite dough – I like Ken Hom’s recipe). The wrappers take half an hour or so to defrost at room temperature (during which time you can be making the filling and the dipping sauce), but be sure to keep them under a damp cloth to stop them drying out.

Leek and ginger pork gyoza with soy dipping sauce
Serves 4-6

550g minced pork (absolutely NOT the kind sold as ‘lean’ – it’s essential to have fat in there or the dumplings will be too dry)
1 large leek, finely diced
2 tbsp finely diced fresh ginger
1 tbsp white peppercorns, freshly ground
2 spring onions, finely diced
1 tbsp sea salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
35-40 gyoza wrappers (I use Imperial Dragon brand, bought from Wing Yip), defrosted if frozen

For the dipping sauce:
125ml rice vinegar
75g caster sugar
2cm ginger, finely diced or grated
2 spring onions, finely diced
1 hot red chilli, finely diced (a scotch bonnet, though not authentic, is tastiest, use a birdseye chilli – seeds and all – for a more traditional flavour)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime

Start the dipping sauce first, as the gyoza are actually very quick to make. Start by dissolving the sugar with the vinegar in a small saucepan over a low heat, then increase the heat and simmer vigorously until it has reduced by about a third and is quite syrupy. Allow this to cool then stir in the remaining ingredients.

For the gyoza, simply mix together all the filling ingredients, then assemble them one at a time (to stop them drying out too much) by placing a heaped spoonful of filling in the centre of each gyoza wrapper, running a wet finger around the edge (this becomes the ‘glue’), then folding over into a semi-circle and pressing together gently to seal, expelling any air as you go. Place them on a baking tray and keep them covered whilst you do the rest. They keep for a day in the fridge, tightly covered with clingfilm, or they freeze well. To cook, line a large steamer basket with a sheet of greaseproof paper and lay the gyoza onto it in a single layer, not touching each other (they stick easily). Steam for 4-5 minutes until the pork is just cooked through – it is important not to overcook them as the filling will become bouncy and tough rather than tender and meltingly soft.

This recipe makes around 35-40 dumplings, a generous 4 portions if accompanied by rice and pickles, or they will obviously serve more if you are having them alone as a starter.  I served them with egg fried rice and some speedy carrot & cucumber pickles, the recipes of which will follow soon…..


Spicy and sticky orange BBQ wings

Spicy stick orange BBQ wings With the weather increasingly autumnal in temperament it seems the British summertime is on its last legs, but with the sun making one last determined attempt to shine this weekend I had to share this recipe for delicious BBQ wings which is everything I love most about summer eating: big flavours, messy, sociable eating just perfect for sharing with friends.  Chicken wings are a deliciously inexpensive way to feed a crowd –  I keep them in bags in the freezer from jointing whole quality birds for breast and legs so they’re essentially free, but most butchers will sell you free-range for a pittance, and even the divine organic ones sold online by Sheepdrove Organic Farm will only set you back about 40p a wing.

Such gloriously charred and sticky wings demand you use your hands, get smeared in sauce, gnaw bones and lick your fingers afterwards. As such this is not food for dates or strangers: share it with your loved ones in the sunshine with a drink and you’re guaranteed a good time – no one can be down or serious with food this gloriously messy.

The marinade is super-simple to make, and can be tweaked to taste and made a day in advance. You start the wings in the oven, freeing up barbecue space for other things, and this technique also ensures they’re cooked through (no one likes a pink wing!) They’re then finished off on the barbie, giving them a lovely smokey note to their charred edges – but if the sun fails to shine you could always flash them under the grill instead.

Read on for the recipe….

My fridge shame (and a puff-pastry pizzette)

I think it was probably my mother who instilled in me a fanatical horror of waste and subsequently a terrible habit to hoard.  My grandfather, her dad, was the same – in fact he was worse, something we only fully realised after he died – the man had a whole room of copies of Reader’s Digest spanning decades, and a garage full from floor to ceiling with tat he’d picked up at the local jumble sale and never used.

For me, hoarding is mostly focussed on food – I get twitchy if my cupboards aren’t full to the gills, I can’t stand getting rid of (‘wasting’) anything that is still edible, and combine that with my love of discovering new products and devotion to condiments in particular and you have a recipe for one hell of an overloaded fridge!

When I recently opened the fridge door and realised not only was there no room for the milk I’d just bought, but also that I had NO idea what was taking up all the space, I decided it was time for a major clear out.  Here is my shameful roll-call of the contents…

bread rolls celery white miso
gentlemen’s relish barley miso Swedish mustard
English mustard baby capers ground coffee
dill mustard tamarind chipotle chutney curry roux
coconut cream hot pepper jelly chilli sauce
mint sauce condensed milk fast-action yeast
pickled radish ghee No.5 umami paste
cheddar garlic mayo red leicester
eggs bacon lemons
dill corn cobs young garlic
tomatoes oranges limes
ginger red chillis damson jam
tom yam paste mojito cocktail mix horseradish
mango chutney tikka paste strawberry jam
schmaltz garlic butter 1/2 pck puff pastry
goat’s butter sweet chilli sauce mayonnaise
cornbread parmesan more cheddar
1/2 red onion cherry tomatoes unsalted butter

Ridiculous isn’t it?  See what I meant about loving condiments?  And this is not to mention the things that I had to bin which had gone mouldy whilst hiding at the back: streaky bacon, spring onions, pickled chillis, marmalade, mushrooms.  Binning those has earnt me at least a month in the circle of hell reserved for people who wantonly waste precious resources….

This clear out was a real wake-up call, I certainly can’t afford to waste all this food, so what was I going to do with it?  Well firstly, I made a resolution to use up ALL the items in my fridge.  When cooking as many eclectic cuisines as I do it’s easy to end up with dozens of jars opened for just a tablespoonful in a recipe, but I’m going to make it my mission to use up all the existing ones before opening new.  And secondly?  It was time to make use of those fresh ingredients whilst they’re still good.  And thus I present my puff pastry pizzette:

Puff-pastry Pizzette
Perfect for students, late-night fridge raiding dinners, or anyone who wants to use up the odds and sods in their salad drawers.  Quantities are up to you, and should be varied to use up whatever you have in the house.

Puff Pastry Pizzette
Serves 2

Puff-pastry Pizzette
– Take half a 500g block of puff pastry (the other half can be frozen), cut it in two then roll out on a floured surface into two rectangles (or squares, or circles) about 5mm thick, and transfer to a baking sheet

– Smear a generous blob of tomato puree or passata over the bases, leaving roughly a 1cm border around thPuff-pastry Pizzettee edge

– Top with whatever you like – I used thin slices of chorizo (skin removed), 1/2 a red onion finely sliced, a red chilli, and quartered cherry tomatoes

– Scatter over a handful of grated cheese: anything the melts well is suitable, cheddar and parmesan is a nice mix.

– Add a sprinkle of dried Italian herbs (oregano, thyme or similar) and a grinding of black pepper, and finally drizzle with a little olive oil

– Bake in a hot oven (around 200C/Gas 6) for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve with a generous pile of salad to cut through the richness of the pastry and cheese, if you happen to have any!

Gin and Tonic Granita

Gin & Tonic GranitaMy mother-in-law is utterly addicted to G&Ts, as indeed are most members of my husband’s family (must be something genetic?), so when a friend told me that delicious. magazine had run a recipe for a gin & tonic granita recently I took it as fate, as the whole horde of in-laws were due to visit the very next weekend.

Being a cautious soul, I decided to make the recipe well in advance so that I could remake or replan as necessary, so the day before I whipped it up and tested it on my good friend Merialc and her lovely partner. It was, to say the least, a triumph. So delicious that we all scoffed it down, and so alcoholic that we promptly forgot it was meant to be saved for the next day and ate the lot! Oh well…..

Be sure to use both gin and tonic water that are of good quality – it really will make a difference to the final result.  Normally I’m a Sainsbury’s basics tonic water gal, but for this I used the Fevertree brand, which has a lovely complex flavour that survives the freezing process. I’d resist the urge to use a low-cal or diet tonic water too, as the artificial sweeteners will affect the way the granita freezes.  For the gin, I used Juniper Green dry organic, but something like Bombay Sapphire would also work well.
Read on for the recipe…

A right royal feast – Coronation Chicken 3 ways

Coronation Chicken 3 ways As an ardent Republican I must confess myself a little tired of all the Royal Wedding chitchat which is currently enveloping not just the country, but apparently the whole world. Nonetheless, as a newlywed myself I can’t be totally curmudgeonly about it all, and have come up with this twist on a British classic in honour of the special day.

Coronation Chicken was first invented as a dish to commemorate the ascendency of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne in 1953, and although bad versions have put off whole generations from eating it, I think this recipe can convert anyone. It’s super-simple and much healthier than the original – using yoghurt as the base of the sauce rather than the traditional mayonnaise – and because it uses baked chicken thighs it’s much moister and tastier than versions made with breast.

This dish is fantastic as a main course for two people, if you serve the chicken in the piece and accompany it with a rice salad (the classic accompaniment) and some green leaves. Alternatively, shred or dice the meat and use to top bruschetta or fill mini croustades* – no street party should be without it!

Coronation Chicken

4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
2½-3 tbsp korma curry paste (I like Patak’s)
half a lemon
100g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp mango chutney
Tabasco, a few drops

To serve:
Croustade cases
Small thick slices of quality toast (e.g. Sourdough)
Rice salad and mixed leaves

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 8/230˚C.

Mix 1 heaped tablespoon of the korma paste with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Spread the mixture all over the chicken and place skin-side up in a snug-fitting roasting dish.  Sprinkle with a little extra salt and a generous grinding of black pepper, then bake for 25-30 minutes until the skin is lightly charred and the meat is cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by mixing together the yoghurt, mayonnaise, mango chutney and remaining korma paste. Add a squeeze of lemon, pinch of salt and shake of Tabasco (to taste).

To serve, either serve the chicken in the piece with some rice salad and fresh green leaves; or shred and pile on top of the toasts with a generous drizzle of sauce; or cut into chunks, toss with the sauce to coat and pile into croustade cases. Whichever you choose, serve extra sauce on the side and mango chutney for those who wish it.

*You can buy gorgeous little croustades like the ones I used from major supermarkets, ‘Rahms’ is the brand to look for!

Coronation Chicken

Asparagus and super-easy Hollandaise sauce

Asparagus & Hollandaise sauceNothing signifies the return of summer cooking to me more than the first of the new season’s asparagus. That first plate of green delights from our British fields tells me it is time to put the cassoulets and hotpots away, and bring in light pasta dishes and salads.

Although a touch early (the British asparagus season is usually from the end of April-early July), I did indeed have that first dish of new season asparagus this weekend, the first cutting of the year, taken that morning. There is only one approach to take with asparagus at the beginning of the season and that is ‘keep it simple’ –  either drizzle it with molten butter, or dip it in luscious hollandaise. Later in the month I might start getting creative with tarts and pasta, but for now I want my asparagus whole, and mostly unadorned.

Lightly boil or steam your asparagus, and the freshest spears will need mere minutes. Then whip up a batch of my insanely easy hollandaise sauce, based on a recipe given to my father more than fifty years ago and still a family favourite, then devour – preferably with one’s fingers rather than knife and fork.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce
Serves 4 as an accompaniment

3 egg yolks
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
110g melted butter

Put all the ingredients except the butter into a blender or liquidiser and process briefly until mixed. Keeping the motor running, very slowly pour in the melted butter and continue to blend until foamy. Serve immediately.