Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Cooking with Sarsons - Homemade Piccalilli with Ham and Egg Pie

It's piccalilli folks, but not as you know it
You may not have noticed from the picture above but within that handsome looking jar of homemade piccalilli, lies slivers of pink and peppery radishes; soft enough, yet retaining just a tiny bit of bite. Which is how all the vegetables should be, when thrown into an aromatic mix of mustard yellow and brine. 

It does seem though that my putting radishes into a pickle has also caused some consternation among some well known figures on the food scene. After pinging some Instagram shots out there, of the very same jar (or saucepan to be exact) the notion of radishes in piccalilli was deemed as absurd and foolhardy by some. Alas, when it comes to food and pushing boundaries and challenging perceptions, there will always be the odd naysayer, who just will not budge and go away. Like a fart in an ill-fitting pair of y-fronts, brought on by too much cauliflower.

Luckily the practice of putting these cherry sized roots into turmeric juice has precedence. A certain Mrs Elizabeth Raffald, author of the 18th century smash hit cookbook 'The Experienced English Housekeeper', is attributed as being the first person to introduce the word 'piccalilli' into the English lexicon. Or 'piccalillo' as it was known back then. AND she was a big fan of using radishes too. So if Lizzy can get away with it, so can I.

How do I know this? Well, I looked it up on Google of course. Just to feel entirely justified to have used them, after a small bag had been found lying moribund, in the bottom of the fridge. But you shouldn't feel so sensitive when making it for yourself. Nor should you feel bound by tradition. Lots of different vegetables can be used in piccalilli. Broad beans, shredded carrots, beetroot, samphire, you name it, it can go in. 

And either way, the shop bought stuff rarely makes the same impact as batches, boiled and bubbled up on the stove at home. Especially when served with a ham and egg pie (with a bit of tarragon secreted in) for a picnic. Having been cooked out over time, I find it a lot mellower and suffer less with the vinegar sweats; which is an important thing to consider when the sun is beating down.

If I were to put one constraint or restriction to this piccalilli, don't get into the habit of crooning 'Look at the stars, see how they shine for you,' whilst making this. Singing any song by Coldplay is crossing the line and banned my kitchen. If you do that, you deserve all the trolling you get.

Homemade Piccalilli with Ham and Egg Pie - serves 8


For the Homemade Piccalilli

2 onions, diced
250g runner beans, sliced into thin strips
250g cauliflower florets
100g radishes, sliced
2tsps English mustard powder
2tsps turmeric powder
300ml Sarsons Malt Vinegar
25g corn flour
100g  granulated sugar
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
1tbsp sea salt

For the Pork and Egg pie

Oil, for frying
500g pork mince
500g cooked ham hock, shredded
2 shallots, chopped
2tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
4 hard boiled eggs, shelled
Salt and pepper, to season

For the hot water crust pastry 

450g plain flour
100g strong white flour
75g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
125g lard
1 egg, beaten
Salt, to season


For the piccalilli 

Place the onions into a saucepan and add 150ml of Sarson’s Malt Vinegar and bring to the boil. Cover and then cook for 15 minutes, until soft.

A plethora of ingredients.
Fill a separate saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the cauliflower florets and runner beans and cook for 3 minutes. Drain and cool under running cold water and put to one side.

In a bowl, mix together the mustard powder, turmeric, corn flour and 2 tablespoons of Sarson’s Malt Vinegar to form a paste.

When the onions are ready, pour in the sugar and pour in the rest of the Sarson’s Malt Vinegar and bring back to the boil.

Add the cauliflower and runner beans and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the yellow corn flour paste, salt and whole grain mustard and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally add the sliced radish and take off the heat. The idea is not to cook the radish completely but to let it stew.

Divide the pickle into two sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool. Once cool, keep in a dark cupboard for up to a month.

For the pie 

Heat oven to 200C and grease a 1kg loaf tin with some lard.

For the filling 

Make the filling by frying off the shallot in some oil until the shallots are soft and translucent. Leave to cool. 

Combine the shallot with the pork mince, shredded hock and herbs. Do not add the egg at this point. Season with salt and pepper.

For the pastry

To make the hot crust pastry, put the flour in a large bowl and rub in the butter cubes with your fingertips.

Heat 200ml of water, along with some salt and lard. Bring just to the boil and then stir into the flour using a wooden spoon.

When the mixture is cool enough to handle (it should feel very warm) knead until smooth. 

Cut off two thirds of the dough and roll out quickly and line the bottom and sides of your loaf tin. 

Press half of the meat filling into the pastry-lined tin. Take a thin slice off the top and bottom of each boiled egg (this helps them sit next to each other and makes slicing the pie easier), then place the eggs length ways down the middle of the pie. Add the remaining meat filling and pat it down.

Ham hock, parsley, tarragon and boiled eggs - a winning combination.
Brush the overhanging pastry edge with egg yolk. Roll out the remaining pastry to make a lid and place over the pie. Place the lid on top, press down at the edges and trim any excess pastry off. Make three steam holes in the top of the pie and brush with more egg yolk.

Bake for 30 minutes and reduce the heat to 180C and bake for a further hour. Leave to cool completely in the tin before gently prising with a knife and tipping out.

Piccalilli is perfect for ppppppicnics.
To serve, carve the pie up into slices and serve on a paper or tupperware plate with a handsome dollop of homemade piccalilli.

Let the pie cool! That is the golden rule.
Yes, those are radishes in there. So sue me.
A summer treat.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Cooking with Sarsons - Cavolo Nero with puy lentils and herby hot vinegar sauce

I don't know about you but I have long held the opinion that condiments, in all their shapes and forms, can deliver more than just a brusk slight of hand or mere passing over, once a plate has been slapped down on the table. Ketchup is an excellent 'secret' ingredient to hide in burgers and Spag bol and is very important for making Rose Marie blush. Mustard slathered on lamb chops before roasting ensures a delicate, melting undertone of warmth; as opposed to a harsh punch on the nose. And Marmite, when not being used to glaze chicken or to sneak into sausage rolls, can actually form the cornerstone of a hearty breakfast; without any need for hot, steamy, butter drenched toast. You can, if you so wish, simply scoop the black stuff out with your finger on the way to the train station.

The latter is an extreme option and I wouldn't really recommend it. No one will want to come near you afterwards; with your rancid, horrid Twiglet breath and brown lips. Trust me, I know. However, I honestly believe that you can stretch things beyond the pale with condiments and make them an essential component to most meals.

For example, traditional London pie and mash (my favourite) is nothing, absolutely NOTHING without a hearty dose of malt vinegar. Now, OK, we are still talking about it being used as an afterthought here, as a complimentary flavouring. But as any pie and mash lover worth their salt and white pepper knows, unless you unleash at least half bottle of malt vinegar (sometimes piqued with chilli) over that cardboard package, filled with unknown meat and paired with stodgy potato, then you really will be left out to hang and dry. Because without a liberal, verging on the obscene amount of malt vinegar, pie and mash tastes fairly disgusting.

There, I've said it. And now I have to hand in my 'Cor Blimey Guv'nor, I Was Born By The Saaand of the Bow Bells' badge. But it's true. Malt vinegar maketh the dish, via some strange, curious alchemy and I have always found it mesmerising to watch streams of fermented elixir, whirl dreamily into that white, watery broth, spiked with bits of green....bits. Is it parsley? Who knows.

With that in mind then, when I was approached by Sarson's to help develop a range of recipes where malt vinegar was to be used an integral element to the dish, I happily stepped up and took on the challenge. If I can help change perceptions and spark imaginations to away from the usual splashing over chish and fips and to horizons above and beyond; well, I will be able to sleep more soundly at night.

So here we are, having been feverishly working in the background, over many weeks and at the bemusement of my children - 'Dad, where is all this vinegar coming from'? - this is the first recipe of the campaign which stars verdant, handsome and healthy Cavolo nero, earthy gems in the shape of Puy lentils and an amusing hit of herbs, heat, tang and whatnot. Yes, this is a dish that essentially uses kale and yes, I have made snarky comments in the past about this particular brassica but in secret, I really do quite like to eat it. I used to grow a lot of it too. Keep that to yourself though, right?

Taking a dark and bubbled leaf then, from the good old south of the US of A and it's heritage to slather hot vinegar sauces over collard greens and the like, to lift them out states of bitterness; this is a slightly more refined and simple approach. Rather than go for a fierce hit, I have muted things a touch by using regular red chilli, the sort you'd find on your supermarket herb rack and left out the garlic, using the herbs to floral and grassy effect. You could go down a spicier route and up the ante with a more feral sort of pepper, such as birds eye, scotch bonnet or Mad Dog Dorset Death Star Naga, if that kind of thing floats your boat.

But what would be the point? Putting those poor, tiny papilla on your tongue through the rinser like that. I mean, you could gargle with some Sarson's afterwards, to calm things down. Vinegar does have antiseptic qualities after all. It just depends if you want to be known as that person on the train, who stinks of vinegar and Marmite.

Again, I wouldn't recommend it.

Cavolo Nero with puy lentils and herby hot vinegar sauce


1tbs Rapeseed oil
500 grams Puy lentils, rinsed
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
2 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
Small bunch of thyme
1tbs Groundnut oil
300 grams Cavolo Nero, leaves and stalks washed and shredded (Swiss chard is a good alternative)
100ml Sarson’s Malt Vinegar
100ml water
2 red chilli, sliced
1tsp sugar
Large bunch of parsley, mint and coriander, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to season


1. Heat the rapeseed oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and stir through, so that everything has an even coating. Reduce the heat and cook slowly for about 20 minutes until everything is caramelised and sweet.

2. Place the lentils into a deep saucepan, along with the bay leaves and thyme and add enough water to cover the lentils completely. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 20 minutes. Drain and remove the bay leaves and thyme.

3. For the vinegar sauce: Place Sarson’s Malt Vinegar, water, sugar and half the chilli into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and reduce by half.

4. For the Cavalo nero:  Heat a little groundnut oil in a heavy-based frying pan. When hot, fry the shredded Cavolo nero tossing and shaking for 5 minutes, until it is just done.

5. To serve, pour the lentils into the caramelised vegetable mix and stir through and spoon a generous amount on each plate. Do the same with the Cavolo nero and at the very last minute, throw your remaining herbs into the warm vinegar dressing. Stir through and drizzle over, adding a sprinkling of the remaining chopped chilli.

6. Season to taste.

Monday, 4 July 2016


‘Right, who fancies a sausage wrapped in a pancake?’

Admittedly, I have shouted out stranger things in the past but when I announced this from my kitchen the other day, the proverbial response definitely veered on the side of ‘Um…eh?’

Yet if you were to stand outside the Stade Rennais, or any other football stadium in the region of Brittany, there would be a glorious and resounding ‘Oui!’ For this street food snack, traditionally eaten at a football game, is so popular, it even has a fanclub and website. Hell, there is even a quirky, staccato pop song devoted to the humble galette-saucisse. Which really is just a sausage, or hotdog, wrapped in a buckwheat pancake.

Unfortunately, my schoolboy French is a bit rusty, so I haven’t been able to pin down exactly why they are so revered but given the brouhaha surrounding them, I felt that I just had to try them out. I was able to glean that buckwheat in particular has a long historic association with Brittany, as essentially, it is not a grass or proper wheat. It is actually related to rhubarb and knotweed and is therefore easier to grow and so was once an important staple for a poor, feudal population. The type of sausage itself is more nondescript. Long and with a high ratio of pork to fat seems to be the common factor, flavoured only with salt and pepper; again with an influence that rests upon cheap simplicity.

And for the purposes of thorough research, I also had to see what they were like washed down with some effervescent and tangy Breton cider, which is a classic accompaniment on the terraces of northern France.

The combination is pretty astounding really. The pancake, as you might expect, is slightly denser than your conventional crêpe but it has a wonderful nutty flavour and serves well as an edible napkin; to hold a juicy, hot banger. Normally, that would be that but when I made these for a braying crowd just recently (i.e. my extended family) I also rustled up some caramelised onions and plonked a pot of Dijon mustard on the table to spread upon and fill up with. Something that I am sure would be frowned upon by the aforementioned French Association for the Preservation of the Galette-saucisse but as far as I am aware, they do not have the powers to arrest.

With regards to pairing, I did have notions of introducing some of the Flemish, farmhouse styles of beer or fruity Saisons that are also popular in the north. However, it would be hard to beat a decent Breton cider. Often coming in Champagne-style bottles, these delicate yet crisp ciders are just the ticket to pop and share. The light, apple-drenched Kerisac Bouche Breton Brut I tried would go down very well with some chicken, casseroled in the same cider, or maybe a bucket of langoustines or prawns. But really, sausage and pancakes are the only way forward.

So serve these up for a crowd during the Euros (for any of the French games of course) and you’ll soon be jumping around singing and dancing, to a chorus that goes ‘Galette Saucisse Je T’aime!’ and roughly translates as ‘Sausages in Pancakes? I Love!’

Did I tell you I got an E at GSCE?

This post first appeared on Great British Chefs.

Galette-saucisse - serves 8


8 pork sausages, long
225g of buckwheat flour
550ml of whole milk
2 eggs
1 tbsp of sunflower oil, plus extra for frying
1 tsp salt


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4

Place the sausages on a baking tray and roast for 20–25 minutes, keeping an eye on them, turning and shaking every now and then.

Next, make your pancake batter by sieving the buckwheat flour into a bowl. Add the eggs, oil and salt and start to mix, either by hand or using an electric whisk.

Once it begins to incorporate, start adding the milk, bit by bit, until you have a smooth batter (this process can be done in advance).

Get started on making your pancakes by placing a frying pan on the hob, over a medium heat and add a tiny dash of oil, rotating the pan to cover. Then add a good ladleful of batter into the centre, swiveling the pan around to distribute.

The first pancake mus always be sacrificed to the God Of Pancakes
Leave to cook until it browns and easily lifts when using a spoon or fish slice. Flip over and cook the other side through and then place on a warm plate. Continue until all the batter is gone.

When ready to serve, take the sausages out and leave to cool slightly and then wrap them in the pancakes. Traditionally, each pancake is halved first into a half-moon shape and then wrapped around the sausage but this is only necessary if your sausages are steaming hot!

Plate up either wrapped in napkins or plain as, on a platter, for hands to grab and charge glasses with some ice cold Breton cider.

Breton Cidre - tres bon
A sausage in a pancake being eaten.
Dig in