Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 14: Fluff

I've spent the last week making light and airy desserts. It all started with this:
We had a lot of squeezed-out lemons left after all those white ladies. So, I decided to make my own candied lemon peel. I used this Martha Stewart recipe but just got the zest off the rest of the lemon with a vegetable peeler and I skipped step 4 since I'm going to use the peel for baking. The by-product of candied peel-making is the simple syrup in which the candied peels reside. It's chock-full of lemon essential oils. It had to be utilized!

First, I made syllabubs, based on this recipe. According to Fresh From the Past, Charles II, during his frequent walks in St. James's Park, liked to stop for a syllabub and even kept cows in the park to be sure that the treats would be super-fresh.* I thought it was very strange at first for my dessert to taste like the wine from dinner, but I got used to it and the texture of the syllabub is really fun and foamy.

Lemon Syllabub

Serves 4

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lemon syrup (see above)
1/4 cup dry white wine

Beat the cream and lemon syrup to soft peaks. Stir in the wine and serve in individual glasses.

The next dessert is really just a deconstructed strawberry fool. I like to float whipped cream on top of things and leave the mixing-up to the individual. I think the only thing that might improve upon this dessert is to add some Cointreau to the berries.

Post-Modern Strawberry Fool

Serves 4

1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen (thawed, if frozen)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup lemon syrup (you could substitute granulated sugar and add some lemon juice or zest to the strawberries)

Puree the strawberries and divide the puree into individual glasses. Beat the cream and syrup to stiff peaks and pile on top of the strawberry puree.

In other news, I watched the new Brideshead Revisited and had to wonder, what was the point? It was pretty and all but it took a lot of liberties with the book (it turned the whole thing into a Charles/Julia love story) and I don't think poor Aloysius was even referred to by name in the whole film! I think I'll stick to the 1981 adaptation (which has an excellent cast: Jeremy Irons, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and my favorite Scarlet Pimpernel, Anthony Andrews).

*Sandra Sherman, Fresh From the Past: Recipes and Revelations from Moll Flanders' Kitchen (Lanham: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004), 337.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 13: Just Desserts

This recipe is adapted from The Cooking of the British Isles. The original recipe called for currants, but I still had most of a box of golden raisins. I also subbed mixed spice for the cinnamon in the original recipe. Get the recipe for mixed spice here and the recipe for short crust pastry here.

Apple Dumplings

Serves 6

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 tablespoons golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
6 cooking apples
Short crust pastry
6 teaspoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, raisins, and mixed spice. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry (you may need to do this one half at a time) to an eighth-inch thickness. Cut 8-inch rounds in the pastry. Set these on baking sheets and place in the refrigerator.

Peel and core the apples, then place each on a pastry round. Fill the cavities of the apples with the raisin mixture, then enclose the apples in pastry by bringing the edges of the pastry rounds up to meet at the top of the apple. Pinch the ends of the pastry together.

Place the dumplings, seam side up, on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Then, moisten the tops of the dumplings with a pastry brush dipped in water. Sprinkle each dumpling with 1 teaspoon of sugar and return them to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the pastry becomes a golden brown.

Slice-n-Bake Jumbles

1/2 pound (1 cup) butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the flour 1 cup at a time, then add the baking powder and salt. Fold in the oats, pecans, and coconut.

Tear off a large piece of parchment paper (approximately 15" x 25"). Roll the cookie dough in the parchment to make a cylinder three inches in diameter. Twist or fold over the ends to close and refrigerate for several hours (dough will keep in the freezer for three months).

To bake cookies, preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, slice off as many 1/4-inch thick cookies as desired, and place on a cookie sheet lined in parchment. Be sure to give the dough room to expand. Bake the cookies for approximately 15 minutes, or until the edges start getting brown. Cool for around 5 minutes before eating.

This recipe was adapted from "Freezer Biscuits" from BBC Good Food.


In other news, I finished Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers. It's the third Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. I read the two that were published before it and I keep liking them better and better. I'm going to have to follow Rebecca's example, though, and budget my reading of them because there are only eleven books and a few short stories and Dorothy L. Sayers died in 1957, so she unfortunately won't be writing any more.

I've started The Portrait of a Lady and am about a third of the way in. I've never read it before and I haven't seen the movie, so it's all new to me. Don't worry--I know not to expect a happy ending. I've become more and more able to accept that in my reading, though. I don't know if it was all those years of French literature or just growing up. Maybe a little of both! Anyhow, I must continue on my endeavor to be well-read.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 12: Inspired by Traditional British Ingredients

Today, I'm highlighting three dishes that, while not traditional British food, use ingredients that are commonly found in British cooking. First up, we have a risotto (one of my favorite Italian dishes) full of green peas. According to Colin Spencer, green peas became very fashionable in England in the seventeenth century, along with artichokes, asparagus, cauliflowers, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, and spinach.* I can't imagine cooking without six of my favorite vegetables (everything on that list except cauliflower and cucumber). Many food historians trace our current tastes to the early modern period when cream, butter, and flour roux were taking over from the medieval sweet/sour sauces. Having looked through many medieval recipes, I must say I'd prefer eating in the seventeenth century to eating in the thirteenth century.

My second recipe uses another of the fashionable vegetables, the artichoke, which is combined with cheddar cheese and bacon (very British) to make the best quiche I've ever tasted. To finish up, I decided to mash up Heath bars ("finest quality English toffee," says the label, although I'm sure there is better out there) and put them on top of vanilla ice cream. I have to admit it's a really lazy dessert, but I love toffee, so it makes me happy.

The recipes:

Green Pea Risotto

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
6 cups hot chicken stock
1 pound frozen peas
1 ounce Pecorino Romano, grated
salt and pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet until foaming, add onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until softened, add garlic, stir around then add rice and cook for about a minute.

Pour in the wine, let it boil for one minute then turn the heat down to medium and add the stock, a ladle at a time, letting the rice absorb the liquid before adding more. Stir continuously.

When all the stock has been added, keep stirring for about 5 minutes and then add the peas and cook, still stirring, until the peas are cooked and the rice is creamy and fluffy yet still al dente. This will only take a few minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Adapted from this recipe.

Artichoke, Bacon, and Cheddar Quiche

Serves 6

1/2 recipe short crust pastry
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces bacon, cut into 3/4"-wide pieces
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup (lightly packed) flat-leaf parsley, minced
14-ounce can artichoke hearts (not marinated), rinsed and drained
3 ounces sharp cheddar, grated (a little more than 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to an 1/8-inch thickness. Fit it in a 10" tart pan. Dock and then blind bake the pastry (be sure to put the tart pan on a baking sheet) for 15 minutes. Then, remove the pie weights, brush pastry with a bit of the beaten egg and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Turn oven down to 350 degrees.

While the pastry is baking, heat the oil over medium-high in a frying pan and cook the bacon until it just starts to brown. Set aside.

Beat the cream into the beaten eggs, add garlic and parsley, season with salt and pepper.

Arrange artichokes and bacon in the tart shell and cover with cheddar. Pour the egg mixture over and return tart pan to oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a sharp knife stuck into the center of the quiche causes no liquid to come to the surface. Cool slightly before serving.

Adapted from this recipe.

Lazy Toffee Ice Cream

Serves 1

1 scoop vanilla ice cream (I was really lazy and didn't make my own but used Haagen-Dazs, which, at least, doesn't have crazy chemicals in it)
3 Heath miniatures (21g total), beat with a mallet
1 very English bowl

*Colin Spencer, British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 140.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 11: Version 2.0

For today's post, I've made different recipes than ones I've already posted for soda bread and cock-a-leekie soup. I think both new recipes turned out really well. The new soda bread is made with both white flour and whole wheat flour, which adds to the depth of flavor. It turned out really well, but it is a little more work than the first soda bread recipe. I adapted the recipe from the one on Rachel Allen's website (original recipe here). Rachel Allen has a television show called Bake. You can watch clips at this website.

Brown Soda Bread

Makes 1 loaf

2 cups whole wheat flour (King Arthur Traditional 100% Whole Wheat Flour)
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small cubes
1 egg
1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. Pour into the well in the flour mixture. Combine, adding more buttermilk, as needed. You'll want just enough buttermilk so the mixture comes together and is soft, not moist.

On a lightly floured surface, shape dough into a round 1 1/2" tall. Cut an "X" in the top with a razor blade or very sharp knife and place dough on a baking sheet.

Bake bread in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 400 and cook for another 30 minutes. The bottom of the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a cooling rack.


My final version 2.0 recipe for today is a lazy version of "Cockaleekie" (don't know why hyphens are sometimes used and sometimes not) from The Cooking of the British Isles. This variation of the soup is lighter than the previous one. It is also lacking in prunes and beef stock. But it does have barley.

Quick Cock-a-Leekie II

Serves 8

2 quarts chicken stock
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and soaked
4 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons parsley, minced

In a large stock pot, bring the stock and leeks to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the chicken and barley. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the salt. Divide into bowls and top with the parsley.

This is easily refrigerated or frozen. Leave out the parsley to store and then add it just before serving.
"...Sir John's satisfaction in society was much more real...He was a blessing to all the juvenile part of the neighborhood, for in summer he was forever forming parties to eat cold ham and chicken out of doors..."
- Sense and Sensibility, Volume I, Chapter VII

Paul and I put together a nice cold dinner of chicken, the potato salad from last post, and kidney bean salad (just kidney beans in a garlicky vinaigrette). The soda bread, however, wasn't cold. (It had just come out of the oven.) I have to say, it was really nice just pulling things out of the fridge and putting them on a plate and calling it dinner!

Finally, since Rebecca has bought a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I just wanted to offer some of my own wisdom on the subject. First tip: the vegetables don't usually need as much time to cook as the recipes state, so just check them every so often until they're fork-tender (in the cast of root vegetables) or with a bit of snap left in them (green vegetables). Second tip: there are a lot of steps in the recipes. I probably skip at least one step in almost every recipe. For example, I skip the buttered parchment paper on the chicken escalopes and just put the lid on the pan. Chances are, if it seems extraneous, it probably is. That being said, I have enjoyed many successful meals thanks to Julia Child. Just remember it's not absolute! Rebecca- best of luck and I hope you'll let me know how it goes.

P.S. Here's a list of the recipes I've blogged about from Mastering the Art of French Cooking:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 10: Provisions

I can't believe this is already my tenth Traditional British Food post! I'm quite proud of myself. Well, Paul and I spent a really busy weekend in Oklahoma City* and, while we were there, I picked up everything in the photo above at Canterbury UK Imports. Everything but the toast rack (no more soggy toast!) has a Royal Warrant, as does my tea (Twinings) and my gin (Tanqueray). I just love seeing the royal coat of arms on my food...

In knitting news, I've finished another piece of my sweater. This is the bottom portion of the front of the sweater:

I made cock-a-leekie (chicken and leek) soup for lunch last week. There are so many different recipes I'll have to try. This one is adapted from Jane Grigson's British Cookery. I'll bet you didn't think I'd find another recipe for chicken and prunes so quickly! Mwah ha ha!

Quick Cock-a-Leekie

Serves 10

5 cups beef stock
5 cups homemade chicken stock
2-3 pounds leeks (about 3 large), white and green parts only, thinly sliced and soaked
5 cups cooked, shredded chicken
salt and pepper
20 pitted prunes, julienned

In a large pot, bring the beef and chicken stocks and leeks almost to a boil then back the heat off to a simmer, add the chicken and salt and pepper (to taste) and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Divide into bowls and top with the prunes.

This soup can easily be stored in refrigerator or freezer. Leave out the prunes and then add them just before serving.
In other (non-British) cooking, Paul wanted to make some Knackwurst, so he boiled them up and I made French potato salad (Pommes de terre à l'huile from Mastering the Art of French Cooking).

*If you're in Oklahoma City, you should check out the "Another Hot Oklahoma Night" exhibit at the Oklahoma Museum of History. My friend Kristyn worked her butt off putting it together and gave me a guided tour Saturday (thanks Kristyn!). The exhibit is all about Rock and Roll in Oklahoma (lots of stuff I didn't know). The website is here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Traditional British Food, Part 9: Easier Than Pie

Blackberry-and-Apple Pie is easier than pie because it's actually a cobbler. Because it lacks a bottom crust, I had a lot less work to do (no extra rolling, fitting to the pan, or the dreaded blind baking). Adrian Bailey tells us, "Like all English fruit pies, blackberry-and-apple has no pastry bottom and is very moist; it is eaten with a dessert spoon rather than a fork."*

Serves 8
1 pound Granny Smith apples (or other tart cooking apple), peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup sugar, divided (see method)
2 tablespoons butter
1 pint blackberries, washed and drained
Short crust pastry**

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a heavy skillet, melt the butter over low heat then add the apples and 3 tablespoons of the sugar. Toss to coat and warm for about 5 minutes then take off the heat to cool.

Place the blackberries in an even layer on the bottom of a pie plate (I used the 9-1/2" Pyrex pie plate). Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar then top with the apples. Set aside.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8" thick and a rough circle. Cut two strips (12" long and 1/2" wide) from the outer edge of the dough, moisten the edge of the pie plate with cold water and press the strips of dough around the edge. Moisten the top of the strips, lay the rest of the dough over and press in place. Trim pastry so overhang is only 1/2" beyond the pie plate then roll the edges under and press down with the tines of a fork to secure the pastry on top of the pie plate. Cut three 1-inch long slits about half an inch apart in the center of the pie (see photo below).

Brush the top of the pie with cold water and sprinkle remaining tablespoon of sugar over the pie. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

(Adapted from Recipes: The Cooking of the British Isles by Adrian Bailey)

It was 92 degrees Sunday. Generally, I loathe hot weather, but it brings one consolation: the return of gin to our refrigerator. The colder months are the time for whiskies, ports, and cognacs, but summertime is gin & tonic time. The G&T has to be the best thing to come out of the British colonization of India. G&Ts are my absolute favorite cocktail, but there is a close second--the White Lady. Named for supernatural apparitions (it does glow), the White Lady cocktail was invented in London at either Ciro's or the Savoy some time in the 1920s and was a favorite drink of both Laurel and Hardy. (I've committed the cardinal sin of relying of Wikipedia for this information. If anyone has any legitimate facts on the origin of this drink, let me know.)

Serves 2
2 jiggers gin (I use Tanqueray)
1 jigger orange liqueur (Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
1 jigger lemon juice (fresh squeezed)

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients and shake until chilled. Pour into two chilled (small) cocktail glasses or champagne coupes. You don't have to use the brands I've suggested, but I am going to be insistent about the quality of the components. Cheap gin or triple sec (or, God forbid, both) would be like expecting to see a funny movie and having to watch one starring Will Ferrell instead.

Speaking of movies, in the film version of Have His Carcase (that's "carcass" to you and me) Lord Peter Wimsey sits down to enjoy a White Lady cocktail prepared by his loyal butler, Bunter, before rushing out to assist Harriet Vane, who has discovered a corpse on the beach. I was watching this movie while knitting (very pleasant knitting movie it is, too) and decided to get some Cointreau. Anyhow, all three Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries, which are based on the books Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night, are enjoyable to watch, even the second time after I already know whodunit.

Another enjoyable interwar British mystery novel is Margery Allingham's Look to the Lady (originally published here as The Gyrth Chalice Mystery). I finished it last week and then watched the movie version from Netflix, also while knitting.

Hopefully, I'll have more to show of my knitting soon. I'm about four inches into the front of the sweater now. I have to finish because there are so many other sweaters to knit!

*Recipes: The Cooking of the British Isles, p.78
** I use the Martha Stewart pate brisee recipe (available here), which makes 2 crusts, you'll only need one for this recipe. I happened to have one in the freezer, which is really convenient.