28 January 2015

Eggs Benedict and Brunch (or is it Blunch?)

The word and the meal brunch originated in England in the late 1800s, when a chap called Guy Beringer wrote an article titled “Brunch: A Plea in which he argued that ...

“By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.”

He was so right and brunch was also adopted enthusiastically by America in the 1930s.

I am something of a brunchologist having been the chef at Tortola’s premier brunch location for many years under several owners. I even brunch there now when I visit – everyone does and I am flattered that much of my menu is still in use.




We are now in the midst of National Breakfast Week and I posted some ideas here. Brunch is a bit more substantial but I think it still counts. One good thing about it is that it’s often preceded by an alcoholic beverage, in fact Guy Beringer even suggested this as a good way to start the meal!  In the islands rum is fairly cheap, cheaper than mixers in many cases so beware.  Where I worked there was drink called “Um” which was not only neat rum but was also free!  If the bartender asked someone what they’d like and they went “um ...” that’s what they got.
   
Anyhoo back to brunch which was, and probably still is, preceded by a complimentary breakfast cocktail either a Passionfruit Mimosa or a Bloody Caesar which sounds yuk but is utterly yum.



Passionfruit Mimosa

This is just a passion fruit juice version of a normal Mimosa or Buck’s Fizz as it is known here in the UK.  Half fill champagne glasses with chilled passion fruit juice and top up with chilled Champagne or similar.








Bloody Caesar – for 1

The Clamato juice is the scary bit as it is a mixture of tomato and clam juice but trust me, it works.

30ml vodka
1 or dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 or 2 dashes of Tabasco or other hot sauce
a little salt and pepper
120ml Clamato juice
1 stick celery

~   Rub the rim of a tall glass with a cut lime and then dip it into crunchy sea salt with perhaps a little coarse black pepper too.
~   Fill the glass with ice and then add all the ingredients and stir.
~   Garnish with a pretty stick of celery.




The brunch menu comprised two basic sections, the second page was pretty well normal lunch dishes; about 20 choices such as Creamy Seafood Chowder with HOT and POTENT Pepper Wine, Roasted Garlic Hummus, Black Olive Salad and Crisp Seeded Pita or lovely Salad of Blue Cheese &Sugar Spiced Walnuts with pear vinaigrette.

The first page was more inclined towards breakfast dishes such as French toast, enormous 3 egg omelettes including the Omelette du Jour, fried breakfast and Eggs Benedict in several version. Here is the actual Benedict section from my final year as chef working there, even if the menu is similar probably the prices are not as it was some while ago.



It is Eggs Benedict I wish to have speaks about now.  We served approx. 150 lunches per Sunday, it was not a buffet, the menu was long, it was all cooked fresh to order and about a third of the orders were some form of Eggs Benedict. Luckily amongst the brilliant girls cooking with me in the kitchen (link to Karen’s curry) was my friend Kathy who was always egg lady for Sunday brunch.  Despite the frenzy of the kitchen Kathy used to keep an open book beside her in case she got bored and also, in her spare time, she would often dance a little. She’s very talented! 

So here are some guidelines, recipes and ideas for Eggs Benedict – even though National Breakfast Week will be finished by Sunday I think you could still try them for brunch.




The cruxes of the matter are poached eggs, Hollandaise Sauce and English Muffins and the traditional dish also contains Canadian bacon – see below.

Poached Eggs

~   In a small saucepan bring about 8cm/3” lightly salted water to the boil.
~   When the water is at a rolling boil, crack the eggs and gently pour the contents into the water (if you are nervous break the eggs individually into cups and then pour into the water).
~   As soon as the thick fresh white forms a ball around the yolk turn down the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes depending on their size by which time the white will be firm and the yolks will be runny.
~   Scoop out carefully with a holey spoon and hover over the water a few seconds to drain and dry a little before serving.

3 points ...

1.   There is no need for vinegar in the water if the eggs are truly fresh which they should be.
2.   There is also no need for those little cups to cook eggs in or above water. This actually steams the eggs; there’s nothing wrong with them – they’re just not poached!
3.   If you wish to cook the eggs in advance and serve later (which is very useful if cooking for a crowd) then submerge them in cold water as soon as they are cooked and leave them there until needed. Reheat briefly in simmering water.

Easy Hollandaise – enough for 4 eggs

225g butter
3 egg yolks
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt and pepper

~   Gently melt the butter over low heat then turn up the heat bring just to a boil.
~   Set it aside for about 10 minutes during which time the solids will sink to the bottom of the pan.
~   Carefully spoon the skin off from the top of the butter.
~   Put the rest of the ingredients in a liquidiser, processor or bowl with a whisk.
~   Whilst liquidising, processing or whisking pour the butter into the eggs in a slow stream being very careful to leave back all the solids.
~   Taste and season.
Use immediately if possible.  If you need to keep it for a while, the best way to do so is to store it in a vacuum flask.

English Muffins

If you are English these are just called “muffins” but be sure to use the old fashioned flat yeasted bread muffins and not the little sweet cupcakes or things will go sadly wrong! Other breads work well too, toasted ciabatta is good. These are the English muffins I used to use.

Canadian Bacon

This is not bacon as we know it, Jim, or, in fact, as Canadians know it; they call bacon “bacon”! Canadian bacon, if you are lucky, is a fully cooked, cured pork loin, thickly cut. So to save confusion let’s just say that bacon in any form, or ham, works very well in Eggs Benedict.

Other good toppings include ...

~   Smoked salmon – I think this is commonly known as Eggs Royale but we called it Eggs Norwegian.
~   Spinach – Eggs Florentine.
~   Fresh crab or a crabcake is good – dunno what to call it (maybe Norwegian?)
~   Steak is excellent especially if you add a little minced shallot to the lemon juice for a few minutes before making the sauce and then stir in a little chopped tarragon at the end to turn the Hollandaise into Sauce Bearnaise.
~   Asparagus briefly roasted with some Parma ham till the asparagus is al dente and ham crunchy. Ooh lovely.

And so on!

One last thing about brunch, according Punch magazine in 1896 ...

“The combination-meal, when nearer the usual breakfast hour, is ‘brunch,’ and, when nearer luncheon, is ‘blunch.”

of course they might have been joking, they often did.

In Other News ...

~   In the run up the Valentine’s Day I have reduced the price of my ”Food for Love” to 99p – available here in all sorts of formats. Get it now and start building your strength up!



~   You may have noticed how I bang on about my free books (Two for the Price of None!) at the end of every post and today is no different! I apologise if you already have them but if not click here and read all about it.
 


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25 January 2015

Ideas for Haggis Leftovers ~ including a few sensible ones!

I have cooked and served a few Burns Suppers in my time – not due to any inherent Scottishness but because I lived in the West Indies!
A friend and I ran the bar and restaurant side of the Royal British Virgin Islands Yacht Club where British ex-pat patrons liked to observe the traditions of home. Of course we couldn’t get free range haggis out there, too hot for them, but we could get good farmed haggis! Any leftovers were, of course, put to tasty use – here are some suggestions.
Traditionally haggis is good with strong ale and or whisky, black pepper, rowanberry or similar sweet sauce and, of course, with neeps and tatties. For the benefit of any foreign chappies reading this neeps and tatties are swede and potatoes, each cooked and mashed separately with butter.


If you have leftovers here are my ideas ...

1.  Haggis pizza – lovely easy pizza base recipe here.
2.  Add to Bubble & Squeak or, more correctly, Rumbledethumps as it’s known north of the border (apparently one of Gordon Brown’s favourite dishes) which is also a useful way to use up leftover neeps and tatties. Take this another step further ...
3.  Pour beaten egg over the cooked bubble and squeak, lift to allow uncooked egg to flow under the bubble, sprinkle with a little cheese and pop under a hot grill for a minute or two. Haggis Frittata – fusion!



4.  Toss with pasta in a peppery Alfredo Sauce which is one of the loveliest, quickest, easiest sauces ever!
5.  Stuff mushrooms with a mixture of leftover haggis, soft breadcrumbs, cream, black pepper and a wee dram of whisky. Top with a few more breadcrumbs and bake till hot and crispy.
6.  Make scotch eggs using 50:50 haggis and sausagemeat and they will be even more scotch than usual!
7.  Use a similar mixture to make haggisy sausage rolls.


8.  Roll into little balls and make Haggis in the Hole using my wonderful Yorkshire Pudding recipehere.  
9.  I have recently read that haggis lasagne is a “traditional” après Burns Night treat which was news to me and I wonder whose tradition! I think it would work, though it being lamb I think I might use feta as the cheese.
10. If you have a whole unused haggis (by rights it should be a sporting haggis weighing 500g with a maximum diameter of 18 cm and be 22 cm long) then you could try to beat the Haggis Hurling World Record which was set at 180’10’ by one Alan Pettigrew in 1984 and wasn’t beaten for many years.  In June 2011, however, one Lorne Coltart lobbed a haggis a magnificent 214’9’.

The most surprising haggis recipe I have seen so far is ‘Haggis, Okra and Coconut Tart with Pineapple Salsa’ but haven’t tried it, if you do please make sure to leave a comment for me!
Although I visit Scotland quite often I have never been lucky enough to see a wild haggis but here is a photo of one.

There is lots more info on haggis here including, I was interested to read, the fact that it is possible to buy haggis whistles and that "in skilled hands this whistle can perfectly mimic the mating call of the Haggis", see here for more information about wild haggi (plural) 
Address to the Haggis
This lovely poem is read as the haggis is borne aloft towards the table, it is quite long and Robert Burns wrote it in 1786 to express his appreciation of the noble beastie. I don’t think he was being too dour, however, as its starts ...
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
... and later on ...
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies (buttocks!) like a distant hill,

Oh, and don’t forget to download your free ebooks.

“219 Cooking Tips ..." has just received a lovely new review ...
"Great tips from a great cook and food writer. Her blog is well funny too."
Thank you Paul.


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24 January 2015

7 Deliciously Different Breakfasts for Breakfast Week

Tomorrow is the start of Breakfast Week which was established 15 years ago as a way of reminding people how important it is to eat breakfast ie.to provide fuel for your body after its overnight fast. In short ...


Whilst as a food blogger I am happy, of course, to take this opportunity to post about breakfast I’m afraid I’d rather write about interesting and delicious breakfasts, any healthiness being purely coincidental.

1.   Shaker Glazed Fruit Breakfast

~   Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/200ºC fan/gas 7.
~   Prepare and cut fruits of your choice, peaches are great for this or use a mixture, into similar sized pieces.
~   Put the fruit in a single layer in a shallow buttered dish. 
~   Sprinkle with light brown sugar and dot with a little more butter.
~   Bake for about 15 minutes till gorgeous.
This is good served on toast, especially toasted brioche.

2.   Chocolate Pancakesthe instructions are here and this is what they look like. 


 Tempted?

3.   Grilled Bananas in Bacon

1 banana and 2 rashers of bacon per person

~   Peel bananas and slice in half lengthways.
~   Stretch each rasher of bacon with the back of a knife.
~   Wrap the bacon round the banana halves. 
~   Preheat the grill.
~   Grill the bananas for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the bacon is crisp.
~   Serve immediately – perhaps with a drizzle of maple syrup.

4.  Toast on Eggs

This is so simple – just soft seasoned breadcrumbs fried till crisp (in butter or olive oil or even bacon fat) and served sprinkled over your breakfast eggs.  Brilliant or what?  Handy Tip – the easiest way to have crispy crumbs is to drizzle them with a drizzle of olive oil or melted butter or bacon fat and stir to moisten.  Then fry them in a dry frying pan.


5.   Salted Caramel Toast

~   Grill slices of bread on both sides till golden.
~   Generously butter the toast right out to the edges.
~   Sprinkle reasonably generously with caster sugar.
~   Pop under a hot grill and watch carefully till the sugar has melted and is starting to caramelise.
~   Sprinkle with a little crunchy sea salt and serve.


6.   Croissant French Toast 

Croissants are perfect for making French Toast; the layers of the cut side go crunchy crisp and make sure to serve cut side up so that said layers trap all the gooey maple syrup and butter or what have you.  Per person ...

1 croissant – stale is fine
1 egg
½ tbsp sugar
50ml milk or cream or a mixture
a few drips of vanilla extract
pinch salt
~   Cut the croissant in half lengthways.
~   Whisk together all the other ingredients.
~   Soak the croissant in the mixture for about 10 minutes till soggy but not falling apart.
~   Fry till crisp in a little butter.
~   Serve cut side up with butter and maple syrup or whatever else you fancy.

This picture doesn't do it justice.


“I went to a restaurant that serves 'breakfast at any time'. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”
~  Steve Wright~  

7.  A Traditional Caribbean Breakfast 

A wedge of papaya with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, that it but its surprisingly delicious, and healthy unless you add a little rum although ‘... it’s not just for breakfast’, at least not according to the Ministry of Rum, and they should know! 




Have you got your free ebooks yet? 

"219 Cooking Tips & Techniques"

... including a link for

"Easy Ways to Pimp your Food"


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18 January 2015

An Excellent and Easy Way to Cook Meat (and Fish!)

This post is just a quickie that occurred to me when I was cooking dinner last night.  For my real man I did turkey steaks in a creamy leek sauce with mashed potato and veggies.  I had scallops, also in a creamy leek sauce, wrapped in buckwheat pancakes – I've eaten this before and I don’t blame me, it’s yum!

Firstly I made enough leek sauce for both of us.

Creamy Leek Sauce for 2

1 leek – cleaned and thinly sliced
30g butter
300ml double cream
salt and pepper

~   Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the leeks to coat thoroughly.
~   Turn down the heat and press something suitable (ie. a butter wrapper, greaseproof paper of piece of foil) directly onto the surface of the leeks to cover completely.  Put a lid on the pan.
~   Cook gently for 10-15 minutes keeping an eye on things and giving the occasional stir till very tender.
~   Remove the covers and stir in the cream.
~   Taste and season.
~   Bring to a boil then simmer gently for a minute.

Having made this I browned the scallops and the turkey in two separate pans, added a splash of stock to the turkey and a splash of white wine to the scallops together with half each of the creamy leek sauce.  I brought both pans to the boil, covered them and turned off the heat. 

Here’s mine ...


It was at this point I realised that some people might not be familiar with this easy, minimal attention and even a bit economical way of cooking small pieces of meat and fish without drying out or toughening them.  The secret is ... the flesh cooks in the residual heat of the liquid rather than direct heat so remains tender and juicy.  Another wily plan!  You can even cook things like this an hour or two in advance, just remember to reheat Very Gently or the tender advantage will be lost.

It is important that the meat or fish to be cooked is at room temperature and in thin slices. As for the liquid, match it to the dish.  Hot stock, hot wine and stock, cream, cider or an appropriate sauce or gravy.

Method:

~   Firstly prepare your sauce which should be copious enough to at least surround, if not cover, the propose meat or fish.
~   When ready to cook the meat first bring the sauce to a good temperature, not necessarily boiling but nice and hot
~   Season the meat or fish and sauté in a little oil till taking colour on both sides then pour over the hot sauce.
~   Bring to a simmer, put on a lid and turn off the heat.
~   When ready to eat just return to a summer BUT NO MORE – boiling already cooked meat toughens it.

This way of cooking is ideal for ...

~   Shellfish – the scallops above, for instance.
~   Fillets of fish.
~   Chicken escalopes or, to put it another way, thin slices of chicken, either cut that way or beaten thin and flat. 
~   Veal escalopes too.
~   Those thin minute steaks that can dry out so quickly.
~   Liver and Onions – this is great made this way.  I make a rich onion gravy first, brown the liver in a little oil on both sides then pour over the hot gravy, turn off the heat and cover the pan.  If the liver is thinly sliced, as it should be, it will be cooked, tender and wonderful in about 5 minutes.



And that’s not all – this is the best way to reheat roast meats for a second roast dinner.  I slice the meat and bring the gravy to a boil.  Take the gravy off the heat, lay the sliced meat in it, put on a lid and leave it to relax and warm up whilst I do the veggies.  The result is tender, juicy and delicious – maybe better than the first time.

In Other News ...

As you may know I am blatantly attempting to get more downloads and more reviews for my free book “219 Cooking Tips & Techniques” so that I can be famous – who cares about rich! So if you have read it and liked it I’ll love you for ever if you could write a review for me (herein the UK or here in the US). If, on the other hand, you weren't impressed please don’t! 

Small story, at the risk of being boring, someone reviewed this very book a while ago now and gave it 3 stars – they wrote:

“The tips in this book are good for the novice and/or aspiring cook, however I have to take stars away for the constant use of "till" instead of the correct word "until" throughout the book.”

This seems a bit uber-picky to me especially as he liked the tips but he’s not the only one who can be pedantic! I did a bit of research and found that till actually came first, appearing in the language about four hundred years before until and that they are both now considered correct. What a sad waste of two stars!

Anyhoo if you haven’t yet got your free copy of “219 Cooking Tips & Techniques" and would like one, go here and as a bonus towards the end of the book is a link for, guess what?  Another free book!








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10 January 2015

Tesco offers - gorgeous 3 course meal for 70p!

Maybe no such thing as a free lunch - but almost!


Did you see that - 70p the lot!

This was thanks to a successful shopping trip where we garnered the following ...
~   2 x 250g Extra Thick Brandy Cream reduced from (I think) 94p to 14p ea
~   400g strawberries, reduced from 3.00 to 45p
~   2 x 250g asparagus, reduced from 1.65 to 25p ea
~   500g red grapes reduced from 2.00 to 30p
~   500g parsnips reduced from 1.00 to 16p

So that is 1.69 instead of 9.53 – quite good n’est pas? 


All of the produce was in prime condition, despite the fact that some was past its best before date, and in fact the parsnips were superb. (Talking of best before dates on New Year’s Day my real man remarked on how excellent the tomatoes in his salad were, I checked the date on them – best before 29th November!  They must have been gobsmackingly marvellous then!)

This is just my kind of thing, as you probably know I started Sudden Lunch! (and also wrote “The Leftovers Handbook”) because this sort of spontaneous “wtf shall I do with this” kind of cooking is my favourite.  

The important thing, when getting a bargain, is to make sure you don’t spend more than usual making something good with it This what I have done so far with my bounty without lashing out on anything extra; the costs I have calculated include the pasta, olive oil, vanilla etc., everything in fact.

~  Parsnips  ~

I took these out of the bag as soon as we got home as they were wet so no label to show but they were 500g for 16p reduced from 1.00.

Once I wiped them off I have to say they were 8 of the finest parsnips it’s ever been my privilege to meet!  Lots of ideas for them but this is one I have been pondering for some time ...

Tostones (sounds rude, doesn't it!)

These are fritters made in Puerto Rico from plantains but I’ve long thought that parsnips would be a good, if not better, alternative.

parsnips
olive oil or similar
crunchy sea salt

~   Have ready a bowl of cold water.
~   Cut the clean dry parsnips into slices about 1cm/½” thick.
~   Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, a depth of about 6mm/¼”, in a frying pan large enough to take parsnips in one layer.
~   Fry the parsnips gently till tender and golden.
~   Remove from the pan (keeping the pan of oil, you will need it again in a minute) drain and then press each slice to flatten it which will break open the edges a little.
~   Drop the parsnip slices into the water.
~   Reheat the oil, lift one slice of parsnip at a time from the water, shake off any drips and return to the hot oil.
~   Give them a minute or so more per side, drain and serve warm with crunchy sea salt.


My verdict – lovely; sweet and salty, soft and crunchy!  I used just half a parsnip so let’s see ... 16p for 8 parsnips = 1p!!! Let’s be generous – 3p with the oil and salt!

This leaves me with 7½ parsnips but not to worry there is probably a roast coming up on Sunday and roast parsnips are always welcome, or maybe Roasted Parsnip Soup 


These were quite thick stalks from Peru.  With one pack I made ...

Asparagus Pesto

250g asparagus
30g cashews (or other nut if it’s easier – pine nuts are traditional)
1 garlic clove
60ml olive oil
30g grated Parmesan

~   Snap the ends off the asparagus and discard, cut off the tips and set aside.
~   Slice the body of the spears.
~   Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and put a bowl of cold water nearby.
~   Add the slices asparagus to the boiling water, boil for 3 minutes till crisply tender, drain and immediately plunge (as they say in recipes) into the cold water.
~   Drain the asparagus.
~   In a food processor pulse together the cashews and garlic.
~   Add the asparagus, olive oil and process to a purée.
~   Stir in the Parmesan by hand.
~   Taste and season.

This was enough pesto to sauce tagliatelle for 2 so I had it for lunch the next day too. I always want a bit of crunch with my meals so I tossed the tips together with 3 coarsely chopped slices of chorizo (15p) and half a crust of bread in small dice (½p?) in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  I cooked this in a hot oven (that was already on for something else so no waste there) for about 8 minutes till the chorizo and bread were crisp and the asparagus al dente.  A perfect topping.


~  Extra Thick Brandy Cream  ~ 

Out of date on 6th January but still delectable on the 9th.  With one I made ...

Brandied Vanilla Ice Cream

This is, of course, based on my humungously useful, quick, easy, no churn recipe – just the brandied cream, 100g of condensed milk and tiny bit of vanilla paste.  So 14p + condensed milk 36p + say 3p for the vanilla = 53p for 2 portions.  Real man was happy to eat this.


The ice cream was superbly rich and creamy, probably the brandy content helped a lot with this. (More on this splendid recipe, how alcohol and can help, what else helps, my key recipe plus 100+ more recipes, accoutrements, serving suggestions etc. in my ebook – go here to read more about it and see if you fancy a copy, its very cheap!)

I served it with strawberry sauce – see below ***

~  Strawberries  ~

From Egypt; nice to think that probably Cleopatra feasted on these!

The were slightly sharp and a bit on the firm side but with a good flavour so I decided to make ice cream using the same basic recipe. It too was a gorgeous texture and made much better use of the strawberries than just eating them. The cost was 45p + 14p + 36p = 95p but it made 3 or 4 portions.  I cooked the berries with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and when I drained the strawberries for the ice cream, I boiled down the resultant juices to make a sauce I served with the Brandied Vanilla Ice Cream.


~  Red Grapes  ~

I’ll probably just eat these, mostly with St. Agur my favourite blue cheese, or perhaps on a pizza with said St. Agur, I’ve done it before and it works beautifully!



In Other News ...

I’m trying to get famous without bothering to be rich!
(Please Click to Tweet
 

So if you haven’t already got it please don’t forget to download your free copy of “219 Cooking Tips & Techniques you might find useful” which is available in all formats – see here – and includes a link for another free book “Easy Ways to Pimp your Food”.



Oh - and I apologise if my photos aren't up to scratch, my darling camera seems to be letting in light or something.





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6 January 2015

How to Make Lovely Homemade Gravy

~  without involving Marco Pierre White!

“'There is no such passion in human nature as the passion for gravy among commercial gentlemen”
Charles Dickens, 'Martin Chuzzlewit' (1844)


There seems to be an inordinate fuss these days about making gravy; from the advert that says “Remember how great home-made gravy used to taste?” as if it’s a bygone skill to magazine articles suggesting that you don't use gravy granules “for a change".




This post concerns making gravy to accompany a roast and, just in case you, wondered …

Making the Best Gravy Ever is really easy!


~   Whilst your roasted meat is having its rest *** pour all the fat and juices from the roasting pan into a jug (a fat separating jug would be ideal but anything will do).
~   Put the empty roasting pan over a low heat and add a cup or a large sploosh of water and bring to a boil scraping the bottom of the pan assiduously to dislodge every last scrap of browned juices and cooked on meaty goodness and then simmer whilst stirring till this has all dissolved into the water. You now have some stock to work with.
~   Carefully pour the liquid fat that has risen to the top of the jug into a large-ish saucepan, if there isn’t much add a little olive oil or similar.
~   Put over a medium heat and stir in enough flour to make a soft paste.
~   Cook gently, stirring for a couple of minutes.
~   Whisk in the stock you just made in the roasting pan together with the meat juices left in the jug after pouring off the fat.
~   Turn up the heat and bring to the boil whisking constantly; the mixture will thicken.
~   If the resulting gravy is too thick thin it down to your ideal gravy consistency with hot water, or homemade stock (see below) or even stock made from a cube if that’s all you have.
~   Taste and season.





PS.  People, myself included, often make gravy directly in the roasting pan but as it takes up a lot of room on the stove and as whisking is easier in a deeper pot this is the way I always recommend to others.

You may like to add a little something in the form of a splash of red or white wine or, particularly good in turkey gravy, dry sherry. Add apple sauce and/or dry cider to pork gravy or caramelised onions to beef.  This is good try a little black garlic stirred into beef gravy, let it sit for a few minutes to infuse flavours before serving.

*** Resting – all roast, grilled and fried meats benefit from a few minutes rest in a warm place before serving. During this time the meat fibres relax resulting in juicier more tender meat. The bigger the lump of meat the longer the rest. Give a roast 20 minutes to half an hour (which is handy because you then have time to cook the Yorkshire Puddings using this brilliant recipe which makes 6 for under 30p; I have 1 and my real man has 5)

Homemade Stock

If you are just cooking a small roast for two or three then you’ll probably have all the stock you need using the above method but if you do need more here are a couple of ideas but be warned they both involve thinking ahead.

Beef Stock 

When I am trimming steaks or cutting up meat to braise or stew or if I have any meat scraps I add them to my collection in the freezer till I have enough (say 500g or more) to make this worthwhile.  Fat, sinew and gore are all fine!

~   Defrost the scraps.
~   Cut a whole onion, a carrot or two and maybe a bit of celery into chunks.
~   Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pan and add the vegetables and all the beef bits.
~   Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, till everything is well browned.
~   Add enough water to cover generously but DO NOT add salt because when the stock is reduced the salt will become overpowering. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat and simmer for ages and ages; at least two hours, till you have a rich brown stock.  

~   Strain into a clean pan discarding the solids (if you know a dog you could discard them in his direction).
~   Add half as much red wine as there is stock and boil till the liquid had reduced by 75%.
~   Cool, pour into an airtight container, cover and chill.





This keeps very well in the fridge; as it cools the fat rises to the top and solidifies thus sealing the dish. It can be frozen, freeze in cubes as it is strong and you may only need a little at a time – homemade stock cubes!

This not-classic stock has served me very well; I like to add a spoonful to sautéed mushrooms, to steak pans when deglazing, to creamy sauces, and to anything that could do with a beefy boost. The fat can even be used to fry your next steak!

Chicken Stock (good for other poultry and even for pork)

I have written about this before, see here.  Obviously you can’t do it with the chicken you are about to serve but if you do it with every carcass and freeze the stock you will have a roll of effect.

In Other News ...

Two for the Price of None! 
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Can’t say fairer than that, can I?




~   We were lucky enough to receive a Laughing Monkey for Christmas and are surprisingly pleased with him!  He just sits around the place like any old stuffed toy but every now and then he breaks into laughter even if nothing funny has happened.






Marco Pierre White

I mention him, of course, because of the Knorr adverts for stock cubes. When I was a gal and was in the Good Food Guide it was their policy to drop any chef that advertised instant foods. Just saying. The Guardian' Rachel Cooke actually asked him about stock cubes, thus ...

     You might expect a professional chef to be cheered by the thought of a regular person boiling up bones the old-fashioned way. But not, it seems, Marco. “It’s very hard to make proper stock at home,” he instructs. “You haven’t got the pans.”

    "But my pans are just fine, and at least homemade stock isn’t fluorescent yellow, as stock made from cubes tends to be."

    “OK, you’re posher than me!” he shouts. “I’m just a council-house boy. But then, I look at the flavour, not the colour.”

   "Well, er, I don’t much like the flavour of stock cubes much, either.

     “All I’m saying is: add a stock cube to whatever you’re making, just for the body. That’s all. OK? OK?”

So there you have it!



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