Wednesday 25 August 2010

Rabbit Stew

Again, this post isn’t one for the squeamish. It was a challenge I wasn’t sure I could do, since it involved furry, cute animals, and I’d never eaten rabbit before. But, being one who believes that if we eat meat, we should have a full understanding of how it gets to our table, I gave it a go, and successfully too!


Again, this is something that is done easily without a knife. Initially, the guts need removing immediately the rabbit is killed as they deteriorate very quickly. Once the stomach area is slit, reach in and remove things such as the kidneys and heart. Interesting fact: you can tell the difference between a skinned rabbit and a skinned cat because the kidneys of a rabbit are not directly opposite each other; one is higher than the other!

First, squeeze down the rabbit’s front to remove anything nasty. Then, bend the rabbit’s legs back at the elbow joint and snap them.


Next, reach inside around it’s middle and using your fingers, get between the skin and the flesh, peeling away round the saddle of the animal. The fur should now be loose all across the back of the rabbit. Then remove the legs from the skins, as you would a baby from a baby-grow. Now, going from the tail, pull the skins up the rabbit and over the head. (The head will come off along with the skins, and if it doesn’t simply twist and discard.) At this point, push your finger (and this isn’t nice but really needs doing,) down through the rabbits bum to get rid of any rabbit poo! You’ll find the little round pellets strung together!


To fillet him, cut through the flesh at the shoulder joints for the legs, then twist off. Chop the saddle into two large chunks for the pot. Add carrot and parsnip, spelt, stock and season well. Cook in a Dutch oven above an open fire.


Saturday 21 August 2010

Damper Bread for Breakfast

A simple, unleavened bread with many names, this originated in the outback of Australia. And is perfect as a quick breakfast fix to toast on a hot skillet when out in camping.


There’s really nothing to it: take a handful of self-raising flour (or plain with baking powder), and pour in water until you get a dry dough. Add more flour if it becomes too sticky.


Throw in chocolate chips, chopped mars bar, or redcurrants, blackberries, etc. foraged from the woodland, then pat into a very thin circle. The thinner it is, the less doughy the inside one the outside is cooked.


Place on a floured skillet and cook until the outside is golden. Eat while hot!


Wednesday 18 August 2010

Rainbow Trout – skewered over a fire…

And for lunch the next day? Well, after building a shelter, we all felt we had deserved a good lunch, but first we had to prepare it. Now, there are not many fish around in the woodland so these were ordered in from the local fishmonger, but that didn’t detract from the excitement of preparing it ourselves.


Now, I’ve often filleted my own fish, even a whole salmon at times, but never removed the guts or done so without the main use of a knife!

You use the knife to begin, scoring around the head, without going through the bone, and the tail. Then, it’s simply a question of running your thumb and forefinger down the backbone of the fish, squashing against the bone as you go and thus, pulling the bone away from the fish. I’m not sure it’s a method that John and Greg would think orthodox, but it certainly works and leaves not a shred of flesh left on the bones, even ensuring the pin bones are extracted! I’m giving it a go next time I buy my fish whole!


When done, skewer the double fillet on two small, sharpened stick and wedge into a long, split stick of hazel. Toast over an open, smoky fire, then turn to crispen the skin.


Serve with new potatoes smothered in butter, salt and pepper.


Sunday 15 August 2010

Chinese Pigeon Stew

Having recently been on a Woodland Ways weekend to learn some bushcraft and survival skills, I couldn’t help but want to write about the food aspect. After setting up our shelters, well our bashers (a piece of waterproof material with holes in the corners!) on the first evening, dusk was falling nad we still hadn’t prepared our meal, to be cooked over the open fire in two huge cast iron cooking pots, or Dutch ovens.

So, as the sun set we were introduced to the wood pigeons, shot by the gamekeeper of the farmer’s woodland in which we were sheltering. And our first lesson was how to prepare one of these without using our knife. If you’re squeamish, I suggest you don’t read on, or scroll down the page!


First it’s a case of twisting off the wings, then pulling off the head. Next push both thumbs down inside the neck, one hand at the front, the other at the back, then push upwards and sort of turn the pigeon inside out. Peel the breast bone away from the skin and then prise the flesh away from the bone. 


Chop into pieces and season. We then added Five Spice, ginger, onions, olive oil and mushrooms, and stewed over the fire.


In the woods, (and because the instructors have to be safe rather than sorry,) the pigeon was cooked until very well done and served with rice.


What more could you want? Home prepared, home cooked, local produce: and when I say local, I mean from the actual wood you’re camping in…perfect!

Friday 13 August 2010

Cheddar Cheese Soufflé

The idea of savoury cakes has always excited me: such things as cheese and bacon muffins just sound so yummy. I’ve had this soufflé recipe for quite a while now and simply haven’t got round to making it. It was emailed to me from Acer Suppers and is originally a Delia recipe.


This is a Delia recipe, and although she uses Roquefort cheese, it works equally as well with a strong mature cheddar.

(Serves 6)
6oz (175g) Mature Cheddar.
8 fl oz (225ml) Milk.
¼ inch (5mm) onion slice.
1 bay leaf.
Grating of nutmeg.
6 whole black peppercorns.
1 ½ oz (40g) butter.
1 ½ oz (40g) plain flour.
4, large eggs, separated.
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream.
Salt and freshly milled black pepper.


You will need six ramekins with a 3 inch (7.5 cm) diameter, 1 ½ inches (4cm deep) lightly buttered.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 350F/ 180oc.
Begin by heating the milk, onion, bay leaf, nutmeg and peppercorns in a medium-sized saucepan till it reaches simmering point, then strain the milk into a jug, discarding the rest.

Rinse out the saucepan then melt the butter in it. Add the flour and stir to a smooth, glossy paste, and cook this for 3 minutes, still stirring, until it turns a pale straw colour. Then gradually add the strained milk, whisking all the time, until the sauce is thick and cleanly leaves the sides of the pan. Then season lightly and cook the sauce on the gentlest heat possible for 2 minutes, stirring now and then. (I thought mine was too thick and added more milk, but it should be a stiff roux.)

Next remove the pan from the heat and let it cool slightly, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Now crumble 4oz (110g) of the cheese into the mixture and stir until most of it has melted - don’t worry if some of the cheese is still visible. Put a kettle on to boil and, in a spanking clean large bowl, whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage, then fold a spoonful of egg white into the cheese sauce to loosen it. Now fold the sauce into the egg white using a large metal spoon and a cutting and folding motion.

Divide the mixture equally between the ramekins. Put them in a baking tin and place it on the centre shelf of the oven and pour about ½ inch (1cm) of boiling water into the tin. Bake the soufflés for 20 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack (using a fish slice) so they don’t continue cooking.
When they are almost cold, run a small palette knife around the edge of each ramekin and carefully turn the soufflés out onto the palm of your hand, then place them the right way up on a lightly greased, shallow baking tray. They can now be stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours, lightly covered with cling film if you wish.

When you are ready to re-heat the soufflés, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350F (180o/c) and remove the soufflés from the fridge so they can return to room temperature. Dice the remaining cheese and sprinkle on top of the soufflés and place them in the oven for about 30 minutes.
2 or 3 minutes before serving spoon a tablespoon of cream over each soufflé and return them to the oven. Serve the soufflés immediately on warm plates.


They really are very tasty, and although quite ‘phaffy’, very easy too. Just don’t make the mistake I did of making a little hole in the middle of each to pour the cream into – they deflate rather quickly!

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Goats’ Cheese Mediterranean Tart

This is really one of my ‘bottom of the fridge’ dishes, along with Spanish Omelette, as you find you can use up most veggies with this. The only ‘extra’ you need is puff pastry; it’s just a case of remembering to remove it from the freezer in time!


Simply fry off any hard vegetables you fancy. I usually use red onion and red pepper, but will happily griddle asparagus, fennel, etc if I’ve got any. Season as you cook. Roll out the pastry and cut into squares. Run your knife around each square (about a cm from the edge) but don’t go through the pastry. This will help achieve a nice puffy edge to your tart. Place the squares on a baking tray so you don’t need to move them once they’re covered. Add the cooked ingredients to the middle of the tart and add any soft leftovers such as tomatoes and mushrooms. Top with slices of goats’ cheese, drizzle olive oil over and sprinkle with herbs.

Pop into the oven at about 180 o/c. It’s cooked when the pastry is puffy and golden.


Saturday 7 August 2010

Mackerel with Courgette Salad



Having rather a glut of courgettes this year, a new one seems to appear every day, then I’ve been eagerly searching for something to do with them, something more than making fritters or deep frying them that it. So I was delighted to find this lovely recipe in my Jamie book, ‘Jamie at Home’.


It’s really very easy (as are all the Jamie recipes I try!) and very delicious! Basically you need:

courgettes or pattypans

fresh red (I used green) chilli


basil leaves

salt and pepper

zest of 1 lemon, juice of half

olive oil

whole mackerel, scaled and gutted

Finely slice your courgettes into ribbons.

Make your dressing combining the lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and olive oil to your liking. Add finely chopped chilli.

Make incisions along the mackerel and season. Rub with olive oil and put a piece of rosemary inside each one. These can now either be cooked on a bbq or under a hot grill until the skin is crispy and the flesh falls away form the bone.

When the fish is cooked, combine the dressing with the courgettes and salad leaves and plate up alongside the mackerel.


Mop up the dressing with some soft whole-wheat walnut bread.

Thursday 5 August 2010

Il Bordello, Wapping

My husband knows this place well and although I’ve never been before, I’d always heard good things: the position sizes are infamous! So where better than for our first wedding anniversary? It’s a local Italian on Wapping High St. and is well known in the area especially. As well as good quality, home cooked pizzas and pastas to eat in, they also make these delicious dishes to take away. (If I lived locally I don’t think I’d ever cook again!)

As we walked in, there was a huge lasagne on the pass ready to be delivered and I knew then that I wouldn’t need to look at the menu! Now, when I eat out, I usually choose something I’d never make or eat at home if possible, and lasagne is something I make with my eyes closed. But this just looked so delicious I couldn't resist.

The garlic mushrooms had also been recommended so I though what the hell and ordered.


And the rumours were correct…portion sizes were huge and they don’t skimp on the fat content either! The mushrooms did need seasoning with more slat and pepper but were coated in a rich garlicky oil that made you want more! The OH chose baked avocado with tomato sauce and mozzarella, which again was very rich.


My lasagne duly arrived in good time and I got stuck in. One flavour which really shone through, unusually for lasagne I thought, was fennel, but it was a welcome addition. I did, however, have to give up after only managing a third. Some people have suggested that the huge portions are a waste of food and that they should make them smaller, but the waiter was more than happy to pop the rest into a takeaway carton for me to have for lunch the next day though!


The OH ate all of his Pasta with Salmon and wiped the bowl clean. 


With a bottle of red, a simple bottle of house Italian, two starters and two main courses, and service, the total bill came to £50. £25 a head…consider what you pay for a sandwich / salad and drink at lunch every day, £7? With home-cooked, delicious food, and a lively and friendly atmosphere, I’d love to have this on my doorstep.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Cherry Plum Gin

Having recently discovered a Cherry Plum tree at the bottom of the garden, (I say recently discovered…what I mean is, I knew it was there but not what it was!) I couldn’t wait to get started on some recipes; and what better way to start than with a version of sloe gin.


I’ve been wanting to do something like this for ages, but my regular readers will know that patience is not a strong point of mine, so am not sure I’ll manage to leave the mixture for three whole months, but I’ll give it a go!

I searched several recipes, and sort of combined them all. Quantities varied, and more sugar can always be added later to taste. Basically you need gin (although vodka would also do), fruit (I used cherry plums not sloes, but you could add what you wanted I suspect,) and sugar.


Simply prick the skins of the fruit – put several in your hand at a time and stab each one quickly with the tip of a knife – then put them in a sterilised jar and top up with the gin. I used 1 litre of gin and nearly a kilo of cherry plums. Pour in the sugar, preferably caster sugar as it’ll dissolve more quickly, seal the jar and shake.


Place the jar in a dark, cool place and remember to shake every so often.


Leave for at least 3 months (if you can) then you can strain and enjoy. If it needs more sugar, add some, if there’s not much taste, leave it to mature for longer. Strain the mixture when you’re happy with the taste and re-bottle, adding a few pieces of the fruit for aesthetic value. You can always use the leftover fruit to make fruit liqueur chocolates!

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