Sunday, 26 September 2010

Moving home

This blog has now moved across to Tumblr. Come and visit.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

On Thursday night everyone in my team who lives a sensible distance from Finsbury park came over for dinner.

Matt in my team is a very bad influence, but a very good guitarist.  It was around 3am when I poured them into a taxi and Matt was still playing guitar.  On a school night.

I should have realised that Matt had sensibly booked Friday off as annual leave...

All said a pretty successful evening then!

I didn't take the picture above, but I did cook a chicken pie.  I've just eaten the last bit of it tonight actually and it was lovely.

Needless to say we drank quite a lot.

The girls were on white and red wine.  The blokes mainly drank London Pride, Betty Stoggs and some Duchy Originals ales.

To make chicken pie

This takes a while I'll warn you...

medium (1.5kg) chicken (paying for a proper organic free range bird is definitely worth it)
large leek
couple of medium onions
small box button mushrooms
couple of big carrots
bunch parsley
chicken stock
60g flour
butter (you'll use most of a block)
all butter puff pastry (if you make your own I'm impressed beyond words...)
a beaten egg

Remove any giblets or string, then put chicken in a big pot.  Cover with chicken stock, add roughly chopped carrots for extra kudos, put lid on and bring to boil.  Simmer for 45 minutes.

Take chicken out, leave to cool.  While it's cooling bring the stock back up to a high temperature and leave on a rolling boil until reduced in volume by half.

Meanwhile, when your chicken is cool enough not to burn your fingers - strip all the meat off the carcass.  Cut into medium pieces, put aside the skin and bones just in case you have energy to make more stock later.

Then fry your leek and onion in butter until soft (5 ish minutes on medium heat)

At the same time fry your button mushrooms separately on a high heat in butter.  When browned give them a good few grinds of pepper.  Put them together with the leeks and onions.

Right, now your stock should have finished reducing.

Take another pan (your washing up sink will be pretty full by now...) and melt more butter.  Fry the flour for a couple of minutes.

Then add the reduced stock a ladle at a time until you have a hot, thick, creamy looking sauce.

Get the consistency right (if it's too thin leave it to reduce a bit again) and then add the chopped parsley and a good slug of cream.  Then fold in the vegetables and the chicken and give it a good grind of pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

By this point this should smell fantastically chickeny and you'll probably be hungry to lick the pan out.  So pour the mixture into your favourite pie dish, top with pastry (remember to poke a few holes in it), brush with beaten egg and then cook in a 180ยบ C oven for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

It's a lot of effort - but it's worth it...

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Last night we held the resurrected Roberts Family Christmas Party at our flat.

Dad had arranged it.  He didn't tell us, he told everyone else - and then when it had achieved a momentum of its own and my sister had actually broken the news to me that we were hosting it - he admitted what he'd been planning.

All of us managed to fit in.  Just.

There was Dad, Mum, Seth, Edward, Polly, Polly's boyfriend Ed, Toby, Toby's girlfriend Polly, their baby Theo, Aunt Linda, cousin Justine, Justine's boyfriend Ben, Silka and me.

And a karaoke machine...

We ate

Mixed spanish meats 
Homemade mackerel pate

A choice of

Roast duck
Salmon en croute
Mushroom lasagne


Braised red cabbage
Kumera (sweet potato) bake
Courgettes in yoghurt and mustard
Pan fried peppers

And puddings brought by my lovely sister Polly

Pear and caramel tart

And we drank a great variety of red wines people brought along (Australian Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, French Cotes du Rhone, Rioja) and a selection of bitters (Bath Ales Barnstormer, Badger Golden Glory, Ruddles County)

It all seemed to go down well.  We've got a lot of kumera bake left, but I think that's because I made vastly more of that than was sensible...

To make smoked mackerel pate
Three smoked mackerel fillets, skin off
1/3 packet of soft cheese
20g chives
Squeeze lemon

Flake the mackerel, finely chop the chives, mix both with the soft cheese.  Squeeze in some lemon, grind in a really good dash of pepper (unless you were using already peppered mackerel) and garnish with a couple of halved chives on top.

To roast a duck
I think it's best to buy them the day before, unwrap them and wash them inside and out in cold water.  Pat them dry with kitchen towel and leave them overnight in the fridge uncovered to dry off.

When you're ready to cook them, stab them all over with a sharp knife to make holes for the fat to drain out from as they cook.  I stab them to a depth of about 2 centimetres and around 12 stabs a bird.

Then put them in a 180˚C oven, on a wire rack over a pan to catch the fat and juices in.

Make sure to keep the fat, it's beautiful for roasting vegetables or for making confit duck legs in and it will last for ages in the fridge or freezer.  You'll need to whip the pan out and drain the fat off a few times as the bird roasts, so just pour it off into a pyrex jug or something to cool and when you're finished decant the fat off the top into a jar to keep in the fridge.

About 2 hours should make a 2 kilo bird crispy and brown and delicious.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Mushroom lasagne Christmas party

Tonight Silka and I had Polly, TJ, Eleanor and Stewart over for a Christmas dinner party for local people.  Oh yes.  Only people who know, live in and love N4 allowed.

Apart from Eleanor who only knows and loves N4.

We ate

Kiln roasted salmon terrine
Smoked salmon
Mixed breads

Mushroom lasagne
Pan fried mixed peppers
Courgettes in yoghurt and mustard

Yule log
After eights

The lasagne was made yesterday, left overnight in the fridge, and cooked tonight.  This serves 8 (we had two portions left over and we ate well)

I fried

500g flat mushrooms
250g chestnut mushrooms
250g shitake mushrooms
125g baby button mushrooms
85g porcini mushrooms (rehydrated)


3 leeks

When done, I folded them all in to a sauce made from

100g butter
100g flour
300ml mushroom stock (from the porcini water)
2 pints semi skimmed milk
salt / ground pepper

The sauce was a bit too liquid so I boiled it down for a while before I folded in cheese

The cheese was a mix of 

2/3 Gruyere 
1/3 strong cheddar
dash parmesan

I seasoned the sauce with this cheese until it tasted right, I grated too much cheese and saved a fair bit for the next time I need it (Saturday).  When the sauce was ready, I mixed in the veg and seasoned it with a lot of pepper.

Then I took a large lasagne dish and layered this mix, sheets of pasta, lyod grossman wild mushroom sauce with fresh buffalo mozerella, repeat... until the dish was full.  Then grated parmesan over the top.

Proportions were about 3/4 cheese sauce with veg and 1/4 tomato sauce with mozerella.

Then 25 minutes at 180 degrees.