Thursday, 22 December 2016
It's probably a bit late for Christmas present buying now but I have finally entered my top ten cookbooks for 1000 Cookbooks; a project and app that aims to collect and compile recommendations from hundreds of chefs, authors, bloggers and food professionals to generate a ranking of the 1000 most essential English language cookbooks of all time.
Yes, I just stole that last bit of copy.
Still, I am glad that I have jumped on board and given my thrupence worth. It took some agonising over, I can tell you that and even now, there are plenty of other books jumping around in the kitchen, flapping and nipping around at my ankles, asking why they weren't included.
Do have a look at my choices and let me know what you think though. Perhaps next year I can get a proper shopping list/post done for Christmas 2017. Like in early November. When these lists seem come out.
I've heard on the grapevine that it promises to be a bumper year.
I just need to drag myself away from these books first.
Monday, 19 December 2016
Like a lot of self-appointed and self-important gourmands, when the annual festivities come speeding around the corner, my list for Father Christmas usually contains a whole host of things food-related. Cookbooks, kitchen gadgets and equipment are often the order of the day. Which is great. There is nothing better than getting all choked up after unwrapping a temperature probe and burger making kit. ‘Thank you Nan,’ I’ll whisper into her ear, whilst administering a hug. ‘Thank you for getting me this and not the usual socks and pants.’ That never quite fit.
I have come unstuck before though, after putting in some more prosaic requests that seemed sensible at the time. Too sensible really. I remember clearly, sitting in the living room one year and when all the frenzy died down, feeling quite empty after seeing fellow family members dance about, each of them with snazzy clothes, DVD’s, perfume and whatnot. We do secret Santa in our family you see, with a strict budget. The person buying my present chose to blow the whole lot on a huge, expensive stock pot; ignoring a lot of smaller bric-a-brac that I was after. So I was sat there afterwards, with it perched on lap, thinking ‘Bloody hell Mum, you could have got a cheap one in IKEA.’ Revealing that even at the age of 33, I could still be a most ungrateful and spoilt brat.
Nowadays, having more than enough kitchen junk and books than I can cope with, I think I would be happier to receive edible goods and the odd alcoholic treat this year. I am not thinking about the usual collection of beer flavoured pickles or plastic grinders filled with vivid red peppercorns here, as seen on supermarket shelves, next to shower gel sets and luminous singing rubber ducks. (Who really wants that sort of present anyway?) No, I’d like something that was delicious to eat, properly nourishing and possibly homemade; with love, care and attention. Something like a big jar of goose confit.
Confit, if you are not aware, is a simple process that involves cooking lightly-cured meat in melted fat, at a low temperature, for a long time. The meat and fat is then left to cool together so that everything solidifies, providing a protective barrier against bacteria, which results in a technique of preservation that has been around for centuries. Duck legs are usually associated with this peculiar practise of cooking and the curious thing for me, is that this method actually draws fat out whilst tenderising the meat. A piece of confit duck leg is actually healthier than say, plain roasted! Or at least that’s what I like to keep telling myself.
Seeing as it is Christmas though, why not up the ante and use goose legs instead, another popular, albeit slightly more expensive bird that suits confit. Buying up enough goose fat to cover the legs can have a knock on that budget but you can get just as good results by replacing half the amount needed with vegetable oil or plain lard. I also find that fitting the legs into a smaller snug space, like a medium-sized casserole, helps to cut down on the amount of fat needed. Adding few herbs here and there is another good idea, along with some cloves of garlic but make sure that you clean off the salt properly before cooking. The rich meat benefits from a decent period of curing but if you leave too much salt behind, the legs will have you reaching for pints and pints of water afterwards.
The biggest key though is making sure that you have a jar large enough to stick them in afterwards, for visual impact, if anything else. I know if I were to unwrap something like this on Christmas Day, I wouldn’t be that bothered if there was nothing else for me under the tree.
But you wouldn’t catch me sharing it. Oh no. You can just run off and play with your miniature Connect 4, VW Camper Van speakers or whatever else you got.
4 goose legs
100g of rock salt, lightly ground
800g of goose fat
5 sprigs of thyme
10 black peppercorns
8 garlic cloves
1 First, place the goose legs in a deep tray and liberally sprinkle with the rock salt to evenly coat. Cover with cling film and leave the tray in the fridge for 6 hours, coming back to turn them over halfway through.
2 Preheat the oven to 130°C/gas mark 1.
3 When ready to cook or confit, brush off all of the salt with some kitchen towel. Don’t rinse the legs in water.
4 Place your casserole dish on the hob and add the goose fat. Heat gently so that it melts completely then place your goose legs in the fat. Depending on the size of the legs, you may have to add more fat – if so, just top up with vegetable oil. Add the aromatics by sprinkling over the peppercorns and press the garlic and thyme into all the nooks and crannies. Bring up to a very light simmer.
6 Leave to cool to room temperature then lift the goose legs out. Place in a large, sterilised jar. Don’t worry, the legs will be quite pliable and should fit with some encouragement.
7 Ladle the remaining fat over, along with the cooked aromatics, making sure you completely submerge the legs. If this is a struggle, take a leg out and keep one for yourself.
8 Place in the fridge – overnight the fats will solidify completely.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Friday, 2 December 2016
|Three stages of garlic|
So yes, this method is best and if I were to cast my mind back to when I first heard of it or saw it in action, then I would have to mention my father-in-law here and I have to be careful, because he wasn't too fond of the way I described him last time around. A loud and gregarious man, whose head all often hits the ceiling, Pete has what I'd call a quiet and understated passion for cooking. I say quiet, he moans about having to do it. But secretly, I believe he loves it. Whenever we pop over to the house, I am often quickly ushered into the kitchen to check out a new jar of something he's found along the way. Offered usually, after he's dipped one of his huge digits in first to taste. Or there will be a new cheese to try, a strange pickle to sniff or some curiously alcoholic to sip. And if he is cooking, especially řízek, there will be a large, if not mountainous mound of pale yellow garlic on the side; that has been pounded with salt, using the back of that butter knife.
Mentioning řízek, which is the Czech version of schnitzel, that virtuous pounded meat coated in breadcrumb affair, was a deliberate ploy; as I've been thinking of ways on how to link to the title of this post. Pete, though born in this country, is of Czech stock and the garlic schmooshing technique was one that was passed down by his father, another man also who apparently loved his food and ahem, slivovitz.
What follows then is a video and a recipe, which shows how to make the perfect Brewer's Goulash. Originating in Hungary, goulash is another dish that has many interpretations but in this case, it gets the special treatment from a chef called Luděk Hauser, who was born and bred in Budweis, South Bohemia. The recipe is simple enough, asking just for an element of patience and time and the principle ingredients are beef, paprika and beer, in the shape of Budweiser Budvar ‘B:Original’. I supposed it wouldn't be a 'Brewers' goulash otherwise.
On first watching the video, which is part of a series of Czech Stories commissioned by Budvar, a few on-screen moments resonated. Pictures of cobbled streets and squares lined with grand Baroque buildings brought back memories of my own visits to the Czech Republic. Well by that, I mean Prague. I have been a few times now and despite the encroaching wave of tourism and all that comes with it, I still think that it is one of the prettiest capitals in Europe.
Cuts to glasses of beer being poured, a familiar pale golden Pilsner with the requisite frothy head, reminded me of particular visit to a bar in Prague with Mrs FU; complete with Oompa band (yes, tourism) and an afternoon filled with laughter. The waiter pencilled down I don't know how many strikes on our paper tablecloth - large ones for beer, small ones for shots of this strange looking brown stuff - but I do remember wandering out into the dark, cold night, feeling extremely...happy. We looked up to the stars, then kissed and staggered off to somewhere else, totally in love.
Then Luděk started doing that schmooshing thing with the garlic, which sort of brought me back full circle. 'Oh yeah, that's exactly what Pete does,' I thought to myself. 'It really must be a Czech thing.' Which it's not. But it's funny how a short narrative and a flash of images can ping up memories and random thought processes. He says, whimsically.
I suppose what I am trying to put across is that in watching the film because of the treatment, especially with the garlic (I won't say schmooshing any more) and my own personal connections to it, I was like "Ah yes! This is the real deal. This is authentic. This should taste good."
And it does. You do have to be careful with the fresh horseradish though. Too much can blow your mind. More so than the chilli. But give it a fair grating, as the punchy hit of of this root marries well with the depth and richness of the meat and thickened, slightly velvet sauce that clings to it.
Of course, the final dish is to be enjoyed with a Budvar too.
Perhaps just the one though, Otherwise your brain may get too...schmooshy.
|Beer and goulash|
For the goulash
Beef neck 800g (I used shin!)
Pork and duck fat 80g
Tomato puree 80g
Budweiser Budvar ‘B:Original’ 200ml
Sweet paprika 24g
Ground cumin 4g
Chilli powder 4g
Garlic 4 cloves
Salt and pepper
Beef stock 800ml
Dry sourdough finely grated 12g
|Paprika, onions, horseradish|
Big pinch of grated fresh horseradish
A whole red chilli
Few slices of red onion
Sprinkle of rough-chopped parsley
Peel and dice the onion into medium sized cubes, and sweat down gently in the fat until golden brown. Don’t let it catch or burn. Slice the meat into 4cm cubes and season with salt and pepper.
Add the beef to the pan, and turn until the beef is light brown on all sides.
Then add the tomato puree and – after a moment – the sweet paprika and stir, being careful not to overheat or burn the paprika.
Pour in the stock and the beer, stirring well. Then slice the garlic and crush it together with the salt to make a paste, releasing the oils. Add half of this to the pan before shaking in the cumin and chilli powder.
Bring everything to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for at least two hours. Check the tenderness regularly by hand and, when the meat starts to soften and become tender, you are almost ready to serve.
|Budvar, dreamy beef, chillies!|
Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with grated horseradish, finely sliced red onion, a whole chilli pepper and the parsley.
Serve with steamed bacon dumplings and/or thick slices of good sourdough bread.
|The Perfect Brewers Goulash|
This post was commissioned and sponsored by Budweiser Budvar