Minding my own business

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“Mijn hemel ! Ik ben het zo zat” I wailed a week before I was to hang up my apron for good at Puccini Bomboni …. Oh , a translation? I was “totally over it” in modern day speak… the chocolate making that had been so good to me . The business that had rewarded me (and I it) was no longer what I wanted. It didn’t serve me to continue. What did serve very nicely was the prospect of sun sea and endless summertime and I was going after it on an island off the coast of Africa.
That was in 2006 , that was another life, another me.

Once you have chocolate in your blood there is no denying it. We in the business love it with a passion, it is a love hate relationship, we curse at this medium as we lovingly craft it . The bug , the chocolate virus, presents itself in various ways, from mildest cases of “I love some chocolates for the holidays ” to chronic ” OMG I can’t get through the day with out it”.
Once infected (there is no incubation period) you can be symptomatic, or you can be like me : a carrier. The dealer… There to get you hooked and supply what you need.

As artisan chocolatier I am one of the four horsemen of the Choc-pocalyse… I’m at the front of the jolly band , I’m the one in between the Angel of Death (Nutella) and the Angel of War ( Nestlé) . We gallop over populated areas spreading melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness with a bitter sweet undertone. Our shields are covered with purple foil and our swords drip with Couverture.
The innovator of the bunch , I spread new and exotic confections and each time the populace thinks they are over it I morph into something totally new and so it continues.

Enough of the parody , I was getting carried away with my fancy pants-ness . The thing is, I was over it , the repetition day after day , the masses of chocolate that would be lovingly and craftily transformed into things of beauty and then consumed at the door of the shop whilst the consumer texted unthinkingly . The work never ended, a stockpile was never completed … Thankful and thankless work that I lovehated to do.

Hence the virus symbolism; once it’s there it’s there.Even if it lays dormant for a while it will flare up again.
It hibernated inside me for a good 6 years … I did odd jobs, made special editions for a single customer or event here and there. But it was done in my opinion.
I loved the variety of private cooking . The hanging out with people , cooking and chatting and entertaining and getting PAID for it .
The Caribbean isn’t a great chocolate destination so ‘dinner theatre’ as it was described by one regular customer, was my creative outlet. The combination of being with people and doing what I love to do is 1+1=infinity.

Yes, that outlet, there has to be one or I will implode. I can’t not be doing something. I can’t not be creating. Be it baking , photography , cooking, writing. Something has to emanate from this factory that is PJ , it’s my purpose; it has to be because I feel so damn good when I’m doing it.

My latest endeavor , Chocolatasm, is a balls-out dive bomb back into the world of cacao. I could have done something a little more timid but no, this is a bonafide Chocolate House : ‘La Maison’ Chocolatasm has opened his doors ( yeah , my baby is a boy).

The idea was to provide something out of the ordinary , maybe I’m not so the exception in some European countries but seeing as I was to be operating in the USA, my endeavours would surely have some level of wow to them . Well, that’s what I was hoping at least…

All my truffles are called bonbons, yeah , I’m going to be technical and hissy about this . A truffle is no longer a truffle in the true sense of the word . Anything that has a soft filling is called a truffle these days and it drives me insane.
Chocolaterie Une zéro Une :
“A truffle is a confection that consists only of chocolate and cream. That’s it. The truffles (….) are hand shaped to resemble a ‘real’ truffle, of the fungi variety, and are dusted with cocoa powder. Bonbons are fillings that are coated with chocolate. The fillings can be ganaches (chocolate, cream, flavoring), pralines (ground nuts), marzipan, caramels or creams.” Karletta Moniz.

So my bonbons are made in a way I learned at school … I don’t use molds , I form my ganaches by hand , some are piped, some scooped and some sliced. I like the variety of textures and the effect those textures have on a flavour profile. My hazelnut Praline with cinnamon is light and airy , the rich thickness of its flavour is carried over your tongue as you bite into it , not heavy at all whereas the bright fresh tang of my Rhubarb ganache is a thick creamy bite that stays longer on your taste buds .
The same goes for the chocolate, a high cacao chocolate will either kill or carry certain flavour additions, I want the chocolate to be king of this castle , upstaging such a handsome product with overpowering flavours would be a crime,in my humble opinion, and I love the exploration of a flavour profile , that “CHOCOLATEcinnamonCHOCOLATEh a z e l n u tCHOCOLATE” kind of experience for want of a better description.
The shapes I want to be eye catching and original , I’m not one for adding colour or tons of decoration, the value of an artisan is how he is with the ‘couture’ element of the process , anyone can stick on a transfer these days and call it “my design”… yes, the flavour and the quality of the ingredients should carry a product but the appearance, when mimicked across the board can reduce the finest of confections to nothing more than “fancy candies” .
Harsh words? Yeah , I suppose so and I apologise for any bruised egos but its just the way I feel after being run through the mill of “No! Sloppy! Start again! No! That’s not the right shape! Dump it! Start again!” Quality is excellence ,and that excellence is standing out as exceptional in the true sense of the word.
My bonbons aren’t food, they are delicious compositions , created for one reason , the pleasure they give both taste wise and visually.

I’m blowing my own trumpet here but to be honest I AM extremely humble, I aspire to be a great chocolatier, I have many heroes and examples I follow. I feel passionately about certain aspects, well, the PJK fundamentals of chocolaterie, actually:
Be original , use the best ingredients available to you, MAKE IT YOURSELF! Keep it pure, and respect the chocolate.

I’m hoping that America appreciates my offerings, only time will tell and I’m sure there will be changes made , additions to and removals from my somewhat eclectic assortment. We’ll see.

One thing that won’t change? The love I feel when I am working .
Chocolatasm online boutique

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Pastry cream-filled penance or Tarte Tropezienne

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“David! Can you open up another bottle of wine?!” Our hostess chanted from the table on the deck we were hanging around ; that would be the table we could hardly even put our wine glasses down on without first sliding the hummus under the edge of the cheese plate and balancing the dipping oil on top of the dolmades. The table was GROANING from the weight of the ‘heavy hors d’oeuvres’ that was dinner at the Mad Mare Farm. It was a long overdue get-together so the wine flowed , and then kept on flowing… through the wander to the pasture where the Mares live and the panic ridden (I have a horse story) proffering of carrots that were clearly too small to give these hoofed Behemoths without losing fingers and then to the neighbours’ paddock where a donkey and a zebra were living in sin … I know, right?! A donkey and a zebra … in backwoods Georgia?! I’m sure God doesn’t approve of such unholiness.

Needless to say, waking up the next morning with the remnants of Cabernet, Merlot and Zinf filtering through my garlic infused body meant I was going to need more than a couple of cups of coffee to get through the day.

When I’m hung over I like to bake… there’s something about the doing of it, the mixing , the aroma of hot flour and the covert finger scoops of raw cake batter that revives me . Maybe it’s the creative juice …the sugar…? Whatever , it makes me feel nice .

I made a bucket of tea and checked out the pantry: eggs, milk, butter, sugar, etc etc… yeah, that’s a start.

I began by making random Pastry Cream or Creme Patissier as we call it in Fancyland (the small nation neighbouring Who-the-f-do-you-think-you-are-alia) I got some eggs separated, two for the yolks and one I left whole. Mixed that all with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of sugar and a splash of the 2 cups of milk I was then going to boil with the seeds scraped out of one vanilla pod.

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When the milk came to the boil I poured it, whisking the whole time, onto the egg mixture. Tipped it back into the pan and heated for a couple of minutes until thickened. I then transferred it back to the bowl and added half a stick of salted butter and stirred until it was melted and completely incorporated .

My plan was to let this cool and fill a cake with with it so I didn’t cover it, I just kept stirring every now and then as it cooled to stop a skin forming .

Then I realised that the last of the butter was now in the creme.

Well , bang goes that idea.

I had a think and another B-complex and put on some water for another lake of tea …

I put 3 eggs in a bowl added a cup of sugar with the grated zest of a lemon, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of juice ( the lemon topped up to 1/2 cup with orange juice) whipped that til light and fluffy.

I sifted 2 cups of flour with 2tsp baking powder and folded that into the egg foam along with 2/3 cup olive oil, divided it between two 8″ cake tins, greased and floured , and baked them for about 20 minutes on 350 f.

The smell of that doing its thing in the oven will drive out any amount of hangoverishness anyone may have . Remove them from the oven and then let them cool slightly before turing out onto a rack .

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When they are cooled completely you can cut them each into two layers and assemble the cake while there is still some pastry cream left to assemble it with … ::blush::

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I don’t think it needs too much explaining , 4 layers of cake means you need to mentally divide the pastry cream into 3, spoon the first 1/3 on to the cake layer , spread to edges, top with a second layer …etc etc…

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Kind of like this…

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You can top it off with a flat slice for a sharp edged finish but the traditional Tarte Tropezienne, which is in fact an airy, light brioche filled with custard , has a domed top, which I prefer as it looks totally home made and rustic and such .

The cake is , to all intents and purposes, finished … you can dust it with some powdered sugar and “voila!” get stuck in, as they say .

I wanted it to be MORE THAN THIS! MORE!

Being a chocolatier I have everything one needs to make ganache at hand at all times, but I was kind of like “Yawn! Ganache on a cake , chocolate AGAIN!” . I had an idea.

A cup of whole milk . Boil. Add handfuls of white chocolate drops, stirring between each addition, until you get a thick fluid ‘icing’ kind of goop.

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You can flavour this with lemon zest , orange zest , almond extract even… it’s all good.

I had a bowl of Hazelnut Praline at hand. yeah .. I have Praline in my home . just kicking around like any other ingredient. Normal people have a bottle of ketchup, Paul John Kearins has hazelnut frikkin praline .

You can make this by boiling sugar until it caramelizes then throw in chopped hazelnuts and pour onto a buttered baking sheet, cool, then puree in a food processor to a paste .

It’s the Joan Collins of peanut butters .

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I added a spoonful of the Hazelnut Praline to the Ganache … stirred well and poured it over the layered cake.

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There’s a time and a place for neatness and this isn’t one of them , just let the ganache run down the sides and leave it at that . Lets face it … it’s homemade citrus cake, stuffed with vanilla creme, doused with white chocolate hazelnut holy water … close your eyes when you eat it !

The hangover returned , in it’s “you will now fall asleep for 10 hours” form, so it was a wonderful treat to have a huge slice of penance for breakfast this morning…

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Fruitful Ad-libery

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That awkward moment when you look into the fridge and see all those fabulously good intentions still sitting there in their neat little packages , bags and boxes…. the 20 fruit yogurts , the two punnets of fresh strawberries…. languishing like inmates in a chilly white cell .

So as the rain fell and the wind raged outside in this unusually torrid January I had a rummage and guess what I came up with ….. No need . I’ll tell you myself .

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It all began with this amazing recipe for pastry I invented by proxy …. or something kind of like that .. I think…….. proxy means by someone else or some such thing , right?

The thing is , I blindly thought it up , randomly pieced together a recipe , then googled a few key words and came across a post of the same thing; the same … but different !

I had no butter for the crust I wanted to make , so I thought  ” I know what! ” I’ll just add some oil” and so was the Olive Oil two-step crust-of-wonder born .

On this occasion I made a Sweet , non-olive oil version of this pastry … it’s so simple you could do it blindfolded.

2 1/4 cups  flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup any oil

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup  water

few drops of almond extract

Mix the water, oil , salt, sugar and almond extract together .

pour onto flour , stir until blended.

Form into a Ball .

Flatten out on paper. Rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

I know ! Right?!

So, use this pastry to line a shallow Pie tin/pan/dish/whatever

Take a full Punnet ( one of those 1lb clear plastic boxes) of strawberries. Wash and dry them , hull and quarter them into a bowl.

Scatter liberally with Sugar … add a scraping of Lemon Zest and one heaping teaspoon of flour . Toss together until the strawberries are coated .

Dump into the tart crust .

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A bit like this ……………..

Then in the same bowl mix together about a cup and half of flour , 3/4 cup of sugar , a tsp cinnamon . Take the trimmings of the pastry and crumble or grate that into the bowl too , mix well , add a half stick of butter and chop through until the mixture is crumbly … pile on top of the Strawberries.

Bake at 350f/175c for about half an hour . Trust me, it’ll be all you can do not to slice into that Puppy immediately ! Restrain yourself, though, cuz there’s more to come ……

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It looks good enough to eat !

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So then I was thinking “If we are going to be flattened by a tornado , we may as well go out with a complete dessert inside us” … So what goes with a fresh fruit tart? Whipped cream! Haven’t got any cream . Creme Anglaise! Too much hassle . Ice Cream ! Haven’t got any cream AND too much hassle.

Yogurt? hmmmm ….. evil grin.

So what do you do when you want to make frozen yogurt and you don’t have much time and you don’t have much in the way of ingredients and you don’t have an ice cream machine ?

You throw what you DO have into a ziploc bag ! Like,  Duh !

I took three pots of strawberry yogurt , tipped them into a bowl , mixed in half a cup of powder sugar , a  little squeeze from the lemon I’d zested earlier and one egg yolk …. mix mix mix .

 POUR INTO A LARGE ZIPLOC ! Keep the bowl to one side before you lick it… we are going to need it later . It can’t get any crazier . 

Seal , flatten out and lay flat in the freezer for a hour or so . Until Frozen …

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Just before serving , remove the bag from the freezer … knead it a bit in you hands until it becomes malleable and turn out into the bowl you’d used to mix it in … I’m all for the minimum of dish-washing .

Take a potato masher/sturdy whisk / fork and mash the frozen mass until it’s smooth.

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That’s it …. slice a big old wedge of that warm , aromatic Strawberry Tart and scoop and even bigger ball of frozen yogurt on top …

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Cheap Class !

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Let me tell you, you won’t regret it and you won’t want to share because this dessert is pretty damn sexy …..

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We didn’t get Twistered off to the Land of Oz , luckily, so I think I’m going to have look what’s hiding in the pantry …… Watch Me !

That thing you do …..

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So yeah… I have this recipe that isn’t really a recipe and the other day my significant other came home with bags full of ‘stuff’ from the latest foray into the realms of “couponing” …. that’s another story , though.

The bags were unpacked to the strains of  ” I wanted you to make the Leek and Mushroom pie you do… ” Awww! It’s so nice to be needed and appreciated !

Seeing as the recipe isn’t a recipe I’ll race through the ingredients and cut to the porn asap.

The pastry is a butter pie dough… pretty easy to do by hand and even easier in the food processor :

1 part flour

⅔ part salted butter

cold water

Crumb the flour and butter either by hand or in the processor.

Add a couple of teaspoons cold water at a time and gently bring together into a ball .. don’t knead it or it will become tough. Flatten slightly onto cling film or parchment and chill for 20 mins.

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The filling is easy too….

3 large leeks … they are sandy so I slice them lengthways , then cut them into slices . BTW I use ALL the leek , the white and that amazing dark healthy antioxidanty green part.

Throw the pieces into a large bowl , cover with lots of cold water and agitate by pushing the leeks down and letting them float back to the surface. The leek floats, the sand doesn’t. Scoop it out into a colander and drain well ( of course no one is dumb enough to tip the bowl into the strainer with all the sand and then have to re-do the whole thing … right?! )

In a pan heat some olive oil and add a couple of large cloves of garlic… chopped.

Get it sizzling then add a pound of mixed mushrooms…. I use all types : White , Brown Caps, Oysters, Chanterelle, Portobello…. sliced. I wouldn’t recommend Shi-take as the rest of the ingredients are pretty western/mediterranean and I don’t really appreciate the combination.

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Brown the mushrooms well in the oil and garlic before throwing in all the leek , a ton of cracked black pepper and a good pinch of sea salt . When the leeks are thoroughly hot and hustled , throw in a ” good measure ” of fresh young chopped thyme leaves , some crumbled feta cheese ( or good goats cheese) and combine.

Transfer into a pie dish and remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to ¼ inch / ½cm thickness.

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Lay the pastry on top of the leeky mushroomy chaos and tuck the edges down and against the sides of the dish .

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Like this…. if you can grasp my imagery !

ImageThat’s what I meant by DOWN and AGAINST the sides .

Cut the away the excess pastry and decorate if necessary with the scraps . I brushed it with a little beaten egg and baked it at 375f/190c for about half an hour.

Remove from the oven and take pictures of this wondrous work of Art for all your Facebook friends and Tweet to Rachel Ray as it cools.

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This is basically a complete meal as is, being vegetables, some cheese and the pastry  the ‘carb’ but there’s no reason why you can’t serve a side of potatoes , a salad or, as I did, steamed broccoli with a vegetable gravy.

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It was well received any and leftovers nowhere to be seen ……….

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This Vegetable Pot Pie is warming and comforting on a cold winter’s night but can equally be inverted… lining a tart pan/ring with the pastry , adding more goat cheese and a dash of cream to the filling and baking “open” then cooling as a summer lunch or supper enjoyed outside with a glass of Pinot Gris.  Holy crap I’m serfistercated !

See you out on the patio!

Wintry Sweetness

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My last post touched on the dessert side of English Christmas dinner and with Christmas far behind us I want to mention that the Brits will eat their “crimble pud’ all year round !

The enormous amount of rich foods presented to your loved ones on the 25th of December really doesn’t allow for true savoring of the traditional Christmas Pudding , or plum pudding or figgy pudding , or …or….or……. call it what you want to , despite that it’s still a booze bomb that is strictly for the grown-ups ( if you make it my way , at least!) and everyone still manages a piece.

The pudding is traditionally made at least a month before christmas , as this allows it to mature and get all squishy and gorgeous. Also it allows plenty of time to pour alcohol into this confection , rather like putting petrol into your car but, unlike that, with the xmas pudding there really is never “too much” ; every few days you can unwrap the baby and nurse it with ‘medicine’ .

I always used sherry and brandy in the mix and cognac as a soaking agent after the pudding was made, but since my years in the Caribbean I have come to love dark rum in this bundle of fruity spicy joy.

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So……. ::gulp:: ……. I’ll be completely up front and honest with you at this stage; I have no recipe for this …… I’M SORRY, DON’T JUDGE ME! I am one of those nightmarish people that rarely follows a recipe. I have a notion of cooking , as you know, and I have it all in my head. so I have included the above picture showing you the basic ingredients of Chrissy Pudding.

Oh, and to add insult to injury ? I made it on Christmas Eve and it tasted like it had been maturing for a decade. I had been busy with other stuff , ok?!

The way I did it was to take a good handful of pitted prunes, cut them with scissors into a bowl, threw on top a handful of raisins, a huge handful of sultanas and then doused the lot with Rum. I left that covered at room temperature overnight to get acquainted.

Next day I took about a third of a large loaf of bread ; any bread will do but trying to be healthy and using whole grain/bran/wheat bread really doesn’t cut it … we need WHITE , BLEACHED, and SQUIDGY for the ultimate “at home” Texture. Trust me , you’ll thank me . Whatever…. back to the bread… zoom it in a processor to crumb it , or grate it yourself or chop it but make sure it’s crumbs. Throw it in a bowl with a coffee cup of flour, a coffee cup of chopped almonds, a teaspoon of cinnamon , same of all spice, about half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg, a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of soda, a half teaspoon of salt and two coffee cups of dark brown sugar…. now when I say “coffee cup” I don’t mean the type of bucket my brother or my significant other would drink coffee from , I mean a regular pre-war coffee cup sized coffee cup . Mix all of that together well .

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I then grated a couple of carrots, the zest of an orange and a large lemon, squeezed the juice of both and threw all of that together with three eggs, a coffee cup of dark syrup (not maple) a half teaspoon each of Vanilla essence and Almond essence and a half a pack of COLD butter grated. mix that well and add , with the soaked fruit , to the crumby flour spice sugar mix.

Stir ,

stir as if your life depended on it and WISH ! All wishes made whilst stirring christmas pudding come true so do what I do and close your eyes and stir with each syllable of the wish. Then invite any other people in the house to do the same . It’s lame , but such a nice feeling.

Line a heatproof pudding bowl , pyrex bowl/dish with baking parchment ( I just grease it well with some butter and push the paper in ) and then pour in as much of the mix as possible. Fold the top edge of the parchment over the mixture , then wrap the whole bowl in Aluminium foil TWICE so it’s completely sealed. Do the same with more bowls if you have them; made two from my mix .

Place the bowl on top of a saucer in the largest pan you have and pour boiling water around it until almost to the top . Cover and bring back to a boil , lower the heat to simmer and cook for about 3 hrs. Check the water level now and then and top up with boiling water when necessary . This year however , I put the pudding bowl in a slow cooker (crock pot ) added boiling water and cooked it overnight on the lowest setting for ten hours. That’s how I discovered that the slow cook method develops the flavour and creates a texture very close to that of a matured pudding made well in advance.

Next morning I opened up the foil and, whilst blissed-out on the warm spicy aroma, doused that puppy with about a quarter of a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. Wrapped it up again and let it sit until serving time.

When The turkey was done and the dinner was ready , I switched off the oven and put the wrapped pudding in and forgot about it until we were ready to serve it….. about two hours I believe ( wine was being thrown around like it was christmas or something! ) by which time it was nicely warmed through.

We ( I was drunkenly being inebriatedly assisted at this point ) unwrapped it and turned it out onto an appropriately festive plate, transported it to the centre of the table  and sprinkled this dark brown monument to flavour with some white crystal sugar . The trick is then to quickly pour a shot glass of rum over the top and igniting the whole with a match…… this moment is always greeted with an enthusiastic “ooh” and “aah” from the table and actually does do something caramelly to the flavour. With a feeling of relief and smoldering eyebrows, I served timid portions (due to the overextension of our waistbands over the previous couple of wine soaked and turkey filled hours) with an impressive scoop of Rum Butter or Hard Sauce (if you like) and I kid you not ….. we had seconds!

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To make Rum ( or Brandy ) Butter hard sauce?

Half a pound of salted butter; none of this unsalted malarky. Cream it with a cup of powder sugar until white and fluffy … that means :  when you think it’s enough beat it some more.

While still whisking gradually add about a shot glass full of whatever flammable liquid you have decided upon and mix well . If it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to separate/curdle add a second shot glass , if it does look a bit ‘separatey’ add a couple of teaspoons more powder sugar and beat until smooth. Chill until firm.

If I’m correct , there’s a picture of a lovely Pear , some sugar and a bottle of wine at the top of this post…. that was for the next part of the piece, but I think I may be typed out at the moment. Luckily I have a livener behind me in the kitchen … the second pudding is amazing at cocktail hour ; CHEERS !

 

 

English Christmas in the USA

After a few years not really celebrating christmas in any particular way , the time had come to show my new American Family how we do it on the other side of the pond. Explaining traditional English Christmas dinner reduces the quintessential to English Holiday meal to  ” well … it’s kind of the same as Thanksgiving Dinner , but different” .

Even rereading the last statement feels like a disappointment , but the reality was anything but that………

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The Location for this feast was Utana Bluffs , a gorgeous private mountain community just outside Ellijay in North Georgia. The Park/Hart family have their home there and the surroundings just screamed “Christmas”.

The day began with the preparation of the stuffing for the 14lb organic turkey .

1lb of Pork sausage meat, 2 large onions – finely chopped , half a loaf of white bread- cubed, half a pint of good chicken stock , a bunch of fresh sage – chopped finely, a bunch of fresh rosemary – chopped, 2 granny smith apples – peeled, cored and also finely chopped, fresh ground black pepper.

Bring the stock to a boil and pour over the bread and stand for a few minutes so the bread can absorb the liquid.

Add the chopped ingredients and ground pepper and mix well , then knead the sausage meat into that. Tadaah!

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I stuffed the crop of the turkey, pushing the stuffing up under the skin and over the breast .

The leftover stuffing I pressed into a pie dish and topped with more apple to serve on the side .

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Then the Turkey! I stabbed the breast All over and then mummified it in bacon . As I said, I only stuffed the crop , pushing the stuffing as far over the breast as possible and put a bunch of sage and a whole lemon inside the cavity .

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Foiled it and roasted it on 350 ( convection ) for About four hours . When I took the aluminium foil off it was like I had slow cooked it for a day . It was tender and moist with a crisp bacon crust . I put it back in the oven for a half hour to brown . Slicing through the breast meat you got an evenly sized slice of the sage onion and apple stuffing . The sage and lemon and onion had infused the meat from inside out .

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Sexy , Huh?

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For the Sides I had decided on the traditional English parsnip, carrots and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts. Of course , I can’t just “do carrots” so I made a mousseline of parsnip apple and carrot

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Parsnips peeled and chopped … I love the scented almost ‘perfumey’ aroma of these root vegetables.

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Large Carrots, cut roughly the same size.

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Add an onion , some fresh rosemary and cover with chicken stock. bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. drain, remove the soggy woody twiggy rosemary drama without burning you fingers too much and throw into a blender/food processor with a good sized chunk of butter, a pinch of salt , freshly ground pepper, a teaspoonful of ground coriander and one granny smith apple peeled, core and finely chopped.Puree until velvety smooth ….. O . M . G . this is heavenly.

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The potatoes…. so , you want to know how I became the king of oven roasted potatoes?

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Take firm cooking potatoes… wash them well and take out any eyes and blemishes. Cut the ends off diagonally so you have three pieces , triangular and of even size . Cover with very well salted water and bring to the boil. Par-boil for ten minutes. Drain and lay out on the counter to cool.

Pour the meat juices into a roasting tin , if there isn’t a half inch depth I add oil, light olive is nice.

Heat on 375f/ 220c in the oven ( or on the stove) and throw in the potatoes. DON’T move them … just put them back in the oven and give em about 35 minutes before you hustle them around in the fat . THAT’S the secret to crispy potatoes. Mine are even crispy as leftovers the next day . After you have tossed them around in the pan give them another 30 minutes… That’s it .dsc09149

Other Traditional accompaniments to English Christmas dinner are gravy and bread sauce , but first the Crack- Cocaine of all festive nibbles…. Sausage and Bacon rolls.

Sausage and bacon rolls have no other function in the meal other than to make your hand /fork keep moving back and forth to the dish with the verbal statement ” I HAVE to stop eating these Sausage and bacon rolls” .

They are extremely simple to make with ready made ‘chipolata’ sausages but of course I have to be all fancy and do my own.

1lb sausage meat / pork , pork and beef or turkey.

I added garlic, a little fennel , some fresh thyme, and grated lemon zest ( to tie it in with the Turkey) black and white pepper and a splash of brandy for fun. mix it all together and form into little one inch long sausagettes . roll these in bacon ( I used uncured organic smoked) and place them on a baking sheet .Bake along with the potatoes just before dinner is ready .

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Then Bread Sauce.

BREAD….. made into a sauce . with milk . I know how it sounds and the Americans had a perplexed look when I mentioned that that was what we had instead of gravy . Served with a rather neutral meat like turkey, this smooth aromatic and unctuous smothering is one of the most humble and at the same time luxurious accompaniments you can imagine …. and I’m of the opinion if they were serving it 500 years ago it must be good , Believe it or not the English kitchen was once one of the most revered and envied in Europe and this is the kind of delight that was the envy of the European Courts of that time.

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I used  a pint of milk, put it in a pan with a knob of butter , a chopped onion , 3 bay leaves, 5 cloves, a piece of mace, 6 pepper corns, a pinch of salt an a pinch of sugar. bring up to a gentle simmer and then remove from the heat and allow the spices to steep for a couple of hours .

Just before dinner strain the milk into a second pan and reheat. Add 2 cups of fresh white breadcrumbs (or 100g) and stir well until smooth . Stir in some freshly grated nutmeg just before serving…… awe…… some.

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This+ Turkey= angel doing something on your blissbuds.

So after all that kitchen slavery nonsense I needed a cocktail…. Captain Morgan Spiced rum, half apple cider and a splash of coke, garnish with a slice of sour apple.  The rum and spice are warming and festive, the caffeine in the coke will give you a kick towards a few hours at the table and the malic acid in the apple will aid digestion… really , it’s all science. “pour me another” I said often on that day… in the name of eduction and knowledge ‘n stuff.

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The table was set while I was doing all of the above , and the surroundings were perfect for the feast that followed.

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It was such a hit !

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There will be a follow up about the Hell-on-Earth that is English Christmas dinner desserts but as a teaser here is one of the most enormous tiny treats ever , the Great British Mince Pie…. a buffet of flavourful sweetness in a fun-size pastry crust …. more to come …………….

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Chocolate and spice and all things nice

Brown Sugared and Cinnamoned and Cocoa-ed 70% Cacao Chocolate

Brown Sugared and Cinnamoned and Cocoa-ed 70% Cacao Chocolate

 

Trying out new things is part of my job. It’s also my exercise it’s my ” me time ” and my free time . I love flexing my creative muscles and giving myself a culinary work-out .

I recently received a couple of pounds of chocolate from a local supplier and couldn’t really think what to do with so I just blindly threw myself at the pantry and came up with some unexpected treats .

The combination of cinnamon and chocolate is no big surprise these days … but “kick-assed up” with pure cocoa powder and raw cane brown sugar ? well , let’s just say that they disappeared PDQ .

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When I was done making a mess in the kitchen realized I still had melted chocolate left in the bowl so I rummaged through the spices and threw some ground coriander and a pinch of cayenne pepper in … WOW ! The fruity spice of coriander just latches on to the bitterness of the 70% and calms it down without it losing any definition and the warm melty finish gets the best of exclamat!on marks from that hint of cayenne.

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I love doing what I do when I’m not doing what I do … it’s so damn satisfying . Now…. where did I leave that bowl of chocolate ….