Saturday, January 21, 2017

Simple home-made Caesar salad dressing and mayonnaise

When I did a Caesar salad post back in 2012, it was very well received.  My cos lettuce crop this year has been a complete failure, but when my lovely neighbour Helen gave me a bag of fresh cos leaves from her garden this week, my first thought was Caesar salad.
         I knew we'd run out of Paul Newman Caesar dressing, so I trotted off with it on my shopping list - and then completely overlooked buying it. I have an excuse - I was distracted by Jonathan's plea for a supermarket steak and kidney pie, which he had a sudden yen for. Only they don't actually make those family pies any more, apparently. Countdown had pale mince ones, and New World had some not-very-appetising steak and cheese ones. But they also had a posh (and much more expensive) version with Angus steak and red onions. In the modern fashion, the label featured a prominent list of what it did NOT contain: no palm oil (good on them), no MSG (surely you wouldn't expect that in a pie anyway?), no preservatives, artificial colouring or flavouring. So we'll give it a go tomorrow night. [PS - it was okay, but not worth buying again.]
         I had no intention of going back out for the dressing, so I decided I'd look up a recipe online, because (thanks to Mr Newman) I've never actually made it before. It was the usual story with a classic creation: ten different recipes, all claiming to be authentic and all featuring a roughly similar list of ingredients, only in differing quantities and combined by different methods.
         They all include grated Parmesan, though some prefer to leave it out of the actual dressing and just toss it with the undressed lettuce first, and most add more Parmesan on top at the end.  (It tastes very much better to get a piece and grate it yourself, rather than using the kind sold already grated, which is really not worth eating. A piece of Parmesan is expensive, but you don't need a lot, and it lasts for a long time in the fridge.)
          After extensive research, I settled for a slightly adapted version of the recipe offered by Serious Eats. To start with, it gives by far the best background, based on Julia Child's childhood memories of Caesar salad and very good sources from the restaurant where it's said to have originated (see my previous post). It has all the basic ingredients, but doesn't contain any harsh vinegar (which, judging by Paul's, I think would be too strong). It uses a stick blender, which I know will work because my friend Ali has given me a brilliant mayonnaise recipe using one (see below). And it brings up the problem I've had with olive oil tasting bitter when you use a blender, and explains how to avoid it. Genius. I'll probably still keep Paul's handy when pressed for time, but now I can do it myself - very satisfying.

Caesar salad dressing
(Serious Eats)
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 to 6 anchovies
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 large clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine egg yolk, lemon juice, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, crushed garlic, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese in the bottom of a cup or beaker that just fits the head of a stick blender. With blender running, slowly drizzle in canola oil* until a smooth emulsion forms. (Or do it all at once - it still seems to thicken nicely.) Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste generously with salt and pepper.
* "Just as with a regular mayonnaise, you don't want to use extra-virgin olive oil with an electric blender. It causes the olive oil to break down and turn bitter. Instead, use a neutral oil like canola to begin your emulsion. Then, when it's stable, whisk in the extra-virgin by hand."

Mayonnaise in a moment
Adapted from Ali's version, with a different combination of oils. She says, "This  is Alison Holst's recipe, which we've been using for years (the garlic is our addition).” She points out that you can add your own variations, such as different vinegars, using more or less garlic, or none, or stirring in finely chopped tarragon at the very end. Excellent for potato salad.

1 egg

2/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil - mild flavour works best
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
several grinds of black pepper
Optional: 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped

Place all ingredients except the olive oil in the container of your stick blender and process for 8-10 seconds, moving the blender gently up and down to make sure all the oil is incorporated. Put mayonnaise in a bowl and slowly add the olive oil, whisking it in by hand. OR for a very mild mayonnaise, you can use all canola oil (or another vegetable oil) and omit this last addition.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The perfect fillet - and trifle to follow

For Christmas this year we were house-sitting at Eastbourne. The day started splendidly with breakfast at Ali and David's next door  (it was thanks to her that we had found the house).  Gorgeous fruit salad, Ali's home-made Christmas bread wreath, and mimosas - half orange juice, half bubbly.

I kept my own cooking as simple as possible, because I wasn't in my own kitchen, and the last thing I wanted was too many complications.  It all went very well, especially the beef fillet. I think it was only the fourth or fifth one I've ever dealt with, and up until now I felt I'd always slightly over-cooked it. But this year I got it just right - tender, juicy, nicely "set" slices showing the perfect medium rare shade of raspberry pink.
           The recipe I use comes from my friend Lesley, who has been cooking fillets for years. I thought I'd already posted, but I haven't, so here it is. I tend to do the searing and coating well in advance of the actual roasting. The cooking time does depend on the fillet and the oven, so you'll have to be a bit cautious - I start checking it at 20 minutes and then every few minutes after that. I also let the meat rest for plenty of time, at least an hour. It doesn't need to be piping hot when it's eaten. A 1 kg fillet is enough for 6 to 8 of my moderate-eating  friends (and as there were only five of us this year, Jonathan and I managed to get two more delicious small dinners from it).

Fillet of beef
(Lesley Hill)

1 fillet of beef
enough soft butter or oil to coat fillet lightly
grainy mustard
a few cloves of garlic
red wine for roasting dish

Take the fillet out of the fridge an hour before starting to prepare it.
Heat a large heavy frypan thoroughly.
Smear soft butter, or oil, very lightly all over the fillet.
When the pan is really hot, sear the fillet very quickly all over.
Using the back of a tablespoon, coat it all over with grainy mustard and some crushed garlic.
Put it in on a rack in a roasting dish and cover it lightly with a teatowel.
About two hours before you want to eat, set the oven to 220C.
When it reaches the temperature, put in the fillet and turn the oven down to 200C (fan-forced).

After 20 minutes, use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the middle.
For me, the perfect temperature for medium rare - still really bright pink, but not bloody - is about 60C. The juices that come out of the hole where the meat thermometer went in will be pink but not bright red.
The finger test is useful too: it should be a little resistant when you press it.
If you want it a little more done, but still a bit pink, 63-65C is about right.
Once it starts getting near the desired temperature, it goes up quite fast, so if it needs just a little more cooking, check every 3 minutes. This year my just-over-1 kg fillet took slightly under 30 minutes.
Rest the fillet for 15 minutes, collecting any juices and adding them to the wine in the pan (see below).
To make some jus (rather than gravy), after you take out the fillet, add a glass of red wine to the dish and put it back for a few minutes to bubble up, then scrape the dish. (If you forget, as I often do, you can do this bit at the end - put the dish on the cooktop to heat the wine instead.)
Once the fillet has rested for 15 minutes, put it on a warm platter and cover it lightly with foil until ready to carve.

Of course I forgot to take a photo. Too bad. You'll just have to take my word for how good those slices looked.
     Here's my friend Lynne's delicious trifle instead, with the trifle recipe from my memoir underneath.

Proper trifle
(From The Colour of Food: A memoir of life, love and dinner, Awa Press, 2014)
In my opinion jelly has no place in a proper trifle, but sherry is essential – I prefer medium to sweet. The trifle sponge needs to be dry and I buy it, as my mother did. Dark berries are the best fruit to use because their colour and sharpness contrast so well with the sponge, custard and cream. My mother used custard powder but real egg custard tastes better. The cornflour in the recipe prevents the custard curdling and makes it slightly thicker, though it’s still thinner and lighter than the ready-made custard alternative.

For the custard (makes about 700 ml):
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornflour
750 ml standard milk
2–4 tablespoons sugar (depending how sweet you like it)
1 large vanilla pod, split or 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

·     Beat yolks with a fork. Mix cornflour with a little cold milk in a small bowl.
·     Pour milk into a saucepan which can fit well over another pan of water. Add vanilla and sugar. Heat slowly to boiling point, stirring with a wooden spoon.
·     Remove from heat and take out vanilla pod. Pour milk onto yolks, stirring well. Add cornflour mixed with milk and stir well.
·     Return mixture to pan and heat over simmering water, stirring gently, until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, and there is no taste of cornflour.
·     Pour into a jug and cool thoroughly before using, with a piece of cling-film pressed down onto the surface of the custard to prevent skin forming.

For the trifle:
700 g dark berries, one kind or mixed, fresh or frozen
caster sugar to taste
1 large trifle sponge
6 tablespoons medium sherry
700 ml custard, home-made or bought 
300 ml cream
deep glass serving bowl (preferably with a wide base, so that the sponge at the bottom is a similar width to the other layers - Lynne's was perfect)

·     If using frozen berries, take out ahead of time and defrost before using.
·     Place berries in a wide shallow dish. Sprinkle with enough sugar to achieve desired sweetness. (Slightly tart berries taste better.) Leave for 1 hour.
·     Drain off juice. If there is more than ½ cup juice, reduce carefully over a high heat. Pour it back over berries and cool thoroughly.
·     At least 2 hours ahead of serving, break sponge into rough squares and fit into as even a layer as possible in base of serving bowl. Sprinkle evenly with sherry and leave for 1 hour.
·     Cover with a thick layer of berries and juice, then a thick layer of custard.
·     Cover with cling-film and leave in refrigerator.
·     Take out 30 minutes before serving. Just before serving, whip cream and spread over or around the custard, or serve it on the side (as Lynne did).

Saturday, December 17, 2016

New York, New York - cheesecake, that is

My son had a birthday recently, and he asked me to make his favourite dessert - a plain baked New York cheesecake. The recipe was given to me by the remarkable Augusta Ford, who was on the staff of the teachers' college where my first husband was enrolled. Her husband Bob (who was director John Ford's nephew) was a lifelong socialist and had fought in the Spanish Civil War. As I explained in The Colour of Food (which has a slightly different version of this recipe):
The couple had moved to New Zealand from California in the 1950s to escape McCarthyism. Bob did all the cooking, and Augusta dealt with the cleaning by ignoring it. They were immensely kind and generous; at their spartan book-lined house in Glendowie we stowed our sleepy children in the spare room and sat long into the night over giant T-bone steaks, steadily refilled glasses of Spanish red wine, and bottomless pots of ferociously strong coffee.
Augusta didn't just give me very good recipes - she changed my life by giving me Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which had just come out as a Penguin paperback. Friedan’s brilliant phrase, “The problem that has no name”, exactly defined how I was feeling about my life at that time.

      The only slightly tricky things about making this cheesecake are getting the base properly formed so it can hold the filling - and getting the right biscuits. In New York this was made from zwieback. In NZ the Fords used Biscottes, which don't exist now.  I used to make it with plain digestives, but when I went to buy them last week, the supermarket's entire range of digestives was covered in chocolate. So instead I used a new Huntley and Palmer oat biscuit, with cranberries, coconut and honey, that's meant to be served with cheese. It worked very well indeed.

Augusta Ford's New York cheesecake

Crust (to be made at least an hour before filling and baking)
2 packets Huntley and Palmer Oat Bran 
1/4 cup white sugar
120g soft butter

Turn biscuits into coarse crumbs by putting them into a plastic bag and crushing thoroughly with a rolling pin, or whizzing in a food processor. Pick out any larger pieces. Put  crumbs in a large bowl  and mix in sugar.
- Use a spoon to work in soft butter.
- Lightly butter the base and sides of a deep, loose-bottomed round cake tin. Cut a round of baking paper to fit the base.
- Press crumb mixture carefully over the lined base and buttered sides to form a case of even thickness and height. (It won't come right to the top of the tin.) 
- Put tin in refrigerator to harden for an hour.

250g plain cottage cheese
250g cream cheese (Philadelphia works best - but get the original, not light, spreadable or flavoured)
2 size 7 eggs
1 c white sugar (I tend to use a little less)
2 Tbsps cornflour
pinch of salt
250g sour cream (not light)
200ml standard milk (not trim - or you can use 150ml trim milk mixed with 50ml cream)
1 tsp natural vanilla essence
cream to serve

- Place oven shelf a little below middle of oven. Heat oven to 180°C (or 160-170 fan forced). 
- In a large bowl, beat cottage cheese and cream cheese together. Lightly beat first egg and add it to cheeses. Beat second egg and add it.
- In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, cornflour and salt. Stir thoroughly into cheese and egg mixture.
- Stir in sour cream, milk (or milk-cream mix) and vanilla.

- Stand tin with case on oven slide. Pour loose batter carefully into case, until it comes as close as safely possible to the top edge of the case - or, if the edge is a bit uneven, to just below its lowest bit. 

- Bake for 1 hour, until filling is set. Turn oven off and leave cheesecake in it to cool for 1 hour.
- Take cheesecake out of oven and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Run a long thin sharp knife carefully around the cheesecake between the crust and the tin. 
- Remove ring of cake tin by standing base on an upside-down bowl a little smaller than the tin, undoing the ring and sliding it down from the base. 
- If you are feeling brave, gently slide entire cheesecake, with baking paper still on the bottom, off the tin base and onto a serving plate. If not, leave it on the base, but place a paper napkin or piece of paper towel on the serving plate before you put the cake on it (so that it won't slide).
- For serving next day, store cheesecake in its tin, loosely covered with a plastic bag, in refrigerator overnight. Remove in time to let it come close to room temperature.
- Serve in moderate slices (it is very rich) with a little softly whipped cream, nothing else.

As you can see, mine cracked a bit - I probably baked it slightly too long. But it didn't matter, Jonathan and his friends loved it, and so did I. It was perhaps even better the next day....

Sunday, December 4, 2016

More baking! Mastering a tart

I have an ambivalent relationship with pastry: I love eating it, but get very nervous making it. A couple of weeks ago I found a long-lost recipe for apple tart, and decided I'd use it for a dessert I was taking to dinner with friends. It was a great success, because it tasted terrific (filling recipe another time) and the texture of the pastry was very good - light, crisp and cuttable. BUT the tart case didn't look great, with the edges fallen away altogether in places and crumbly in others, plus it was a bit over-baked around the edges.

One other problem: the recipes all seem to be for a relatively small 23 cm tart tin, and that really isn't big enough for six to eight people. My tin is 28 cm. So I have to juggle the recipes a bit to fit.
     This week, wanting a lemon tart for dinner here, and determined to do better, I had another go. I consulted various authors, tweaked the recipe a bit, worked out how not to over-bake the edges, and hey presto - it worked. A bit of shrinkage (despite leaving it in the fridge before baking) and one small dip in one side, but otherwise - much better. The filling was very easy and worked well, though I reduced the original sugar a little - I like it a bit more lemony. And now you lucky people can have the benefit of all this mucking around.

Lemon tart
(After Mary Berry - she gives excellent handling tips - with tweaks from Dean Brettschneider)

A 28 cm, loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin
Baking paper, foil, ceramic baking beans or dried beans
Cream for whipping and serving with the tart

350g plain flour
200g cold butter cut into small pieces
50g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
2 free-range egg yolks
2 Tbsps cold water (ice water is good)

Put the flour, butter, icing sugar and pinch of salt into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the egg yolks and 1 Tbsp water. Pulse again until the mixture comes together into one big clump, adding more water if necessary. (It never clumps in my processor. I need to gather a handful up and press it together to see if it’s ready. If not, I add a tiny bit more water and process again.)
Knead the pastry for just two or three times to make it smooth. Wrap the lump in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Lay a piece of baking paper (I need two overlapping pieces, as it isn’t wide enough) on the work surface. Remove the base from the tart tin and lay it on the paper. Using a pencil, draw a circle onto the paper 4 cm bigger than the tin base. (Once you get used to making this you don’t really need to draw the circle, you can guess.)
Dust the base of the tin with flour. Take the pastry out of the fridge and remove the clingfilm. If it’s very firm, leave it to dechill for a few minutes.
For a 28 cm tin, take two-thirds of it, round into a new ball and place in the centre of the tin base, sitting on the paper. Flatten it out slightly. 

Roll out the pastry, still on the base and paper, so that it reaches evenly out about 4 cm all around the base (to the circle if you've drawn one). As you are rolling out, turn the pastry by turning the paper. 
Gently fold the pastry surrounding the tin base in towards the centre. Carefully lift the tin base off the work surface, drop it into the tin, then ease the pastry into the corners and up the sides of the tin, leaving a little overhang on the rim and then gathering it up to form a firm edge which rises a little all around above the top of the fluting. If the pastry cracks anywhere, press it together to seal. (If necessary you can grab a little bit more from the rest of the original ball to fill any awkward bits. Then put the leftover lump back into clingfilm and freeze for later use, such as little mince pies.)
With a sharp knife, trip off the edge all round to form a neat flat top edge. Lightly prick the base with a fork, but not quite all the way through. Place the pastry-lined tin in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170C fan bake (or 190C without the fan). Line the pastry case with a rough circle of foil, dull side up, sticking up all around the fluted sides and hanging over the top edge a little. Fill with ceramic baking beads or dried beans.
Bake blind for 12-15 minutes, until the pastry is set, then lift out the tin and remove the foil with the beans in it. Put the tin back and bake for another 5-10 minutes (watch it very carefully) until the case is pale golden and completely dry. Leave aside to cool as you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C fan-bake (160C without fan).

5 large free-range eggs                                    
150ml cream (half a small 300ml bottle)                             
200g caster sugar
4 large lemons, zested and juiced:
     150ml of lemon juice
      2 Tbsps zest
Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)
Fruit for decoration (optional) – strawberries, raspberries, thin slices of lemon glazed in sugar syrup

Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add cream, sugar and lemon juice. Beat together well. Stir in the zest. 
Pour filling into jug and fill cooled tart case, but not quite full. Pt tart into the oven and finish filling it when it is safely inside. (This can be a bit tricky - you may well need a smaller jug to do this last bit - but it does avoid any spills getting the tart into the oven.)

Bake until filling is just set – 30-35 minutes.
Take out tart and leave to cool until pastry comes away from the sides of the tin. 
To remove the tart from the tin, place the base of the tin on an upturned bowl and let the outer ring fall to the bench. 
Place the tart on a serving plate and serve warm or cold, dusted and/or decorated as you wish – or not, plain is fine.  (In my case I always leave it on the base, it's too nerve-racking to try removing it – you may be braver. If it is still on the base, put a paper napkin or piece of paper towel under the tart on the serving plate to prevent a sudden dramatic slide as you carry it to the table.)

Well, it wouldn't win any A & P show prizes, but you must admit it was a much better effort than before. Most importantly, it tasted wonderful.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Classic treats - Mrs Cake's Afghan biscuits

I don't usually buy cornflakes, but a while ago I needed some to eat for medical purposes (don't ask). They come in an enormous box, so I had lots left over. So naturally,  my mind turned to Afghans, or as they're now known, Afghan biscuits - although I don't think there was ever anything genuinely Afghan about them...
        Edmonds does, of course, have a recipe, but when I had a look at my online stash, I found a more interesting one by Mrs Cake. I followed the biscuit part exactly, except that when I went to soften the butter in a warm oven, ready for creaming (which I lazily do in the food processor), I left it too long and it melted. I wasn't going to waste all that butter, so I went ahead anyway. The good news is that it didn't seem to make any difference at all - the texture was perfect.
        The icing had to be adapted a bit because I didn't have enough icing sugar, I don't like ti too sweet, and (IMHO) it has to contain real chocolate. So I cut the quantities back by two-thirds, and added about six little blocks of Whittaker's Dark Ghana, plus a dash of vanilla. That provided more than enough icing for the 15 smallish biscuits I made.

Afghan biscuits 
from Mrs Cake, 27 November 2011,
(makes 15 smallish ones or 12 a bit bigger)

180g butter, room temperature (but see my note about melted butter above!)
½ cup/100g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence or extract
½ cups/180g flour
3 Tbsp cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
2 cups/60g cornflakes

2 Tbsp water
30g butter
30g caster sugar
1 cup icing sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa
6 squares Whittaker's Dark Ghana chocolate
walnut halves or coffee beans

- Preheat oven to 180 C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. 
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (Processing it works fine.)
- Mix in the vanilla, then sift in dry ingredients and mix together. (You can process it all again gently until mixed.)
- Use your hands to crumble the cornflakes into the mixture so they are in smaller pieces, then mix in with your hands.
- Form into balls, place on baking sheet and flatten (either with the palm of your hand or with a fork). - Bake for 12-14 minutes. (Mine took 15 minutes, on fan bake at 170C.)\ Put on a rack, on their paper, to cool.

- While the biscuits are cooking, mix together the water, extra butter and caster sugar in a small saucepan. 
- Heat until butter is melted, then simmer for a minute to form a syrup. Add vanilla.
- Melt chocolate into the syrup over a low temperature, mixing well.
- Add the icing sugar and cocoa, and whisk or stir very thoroughly to combine. 

When the biscuits have cooled, crown each one with a dollop of icing (it should sort of pool on top - if you need to warm it slightly, either heat it again very gently in its saucepan, or give it 10 seconds in the microwave). 

Press a walnut half or 2-3 coffee beans into each one.  I think these go extremely well with a cup of spicy Chai tea.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

After the earthquake: Tranquil lettuce soup

After the earthquake, we needed something calming to eat, and my thoughts turned to lettuce. It has a venerable reputation, going back at least as far as the Romans, for promoting sleep, because the milky sap which provides its distinctive taste contains a minute quantity of something known as "lettuce opium". But the concentration is only 2 to 10 parts of morphine per million, compared with the usual therapeutic morphine dose of  0.5 to 50 parts per thousand - roughly a million times as much. So some hopeful hippies' attempts to get high on lettuce products were doomed to fail.

The French continue to regard lettuce as calming, especially when it's cooked. Elizabeth David has the perfect recipe for trying this out: Potage du Père Tranquille, Soup of the Tranquil Father. She explains that he "seems to have been a somewhat mysterious Capuchin monk, but the name ... is also a reference to the supposedly soporific effects of lettuce."

It also feels very economical, because it can be made with the outside leaves of lettuce that are usually thrown away. In The Colour of Food, I tell a story about this:
Every so often Harvey would embarrass me by well-meant but misplaced praise – like the time he announced proudly to a well-to-do guest who had arrived at short notice, ‘Anne made this soup from the outside leaves of lettuce!’ Even though Potage du Père Tranquille was a good French recipe, I cringed at having my economy exposed.
I doubt that the French ever use iceberg lettuce, but it works perfectly well for this soup, and one large lettuce provides enough outer leaves for the recipe.

Potage du Père Tranquille - Tranquil Lettuce Soup 
(Adapted from Elizabeth David, French Provincial Cooking)
Makes 4 generous servings or six smaller ones

Outer leaves of one large iceberg lettuce or 2 to 3 buttercrunch ones (David says 3)
(If you have lots of lettuce to spare, use a whole one)
500 ml mild chicken stock (I use half chicken and half miso stock)
300 ml milk
salt and pepper
about 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp sugar
small lump of butter or 50 ml cream

- Wash leaves carefully, shake off water, pile them together and slice them across into long fine ribbons.

- Put the sliced lettuce in a large sauce[an with just enough stock to cover them. Simmer gently, adding a little more stock or water if necessary, until they are quite soft.

- Drain the cooked lettuce through a sieve into a bowl. Keep the bowl of stock.
- When the lettuce has cooled, puree it in a blender or food processor.
- Return the puree to the pan. Stir in the stock and enough milk to make a thin cream (check the flavour after adding some milk, as you do not want to make the soup too bland and tasteless).
- If you don't want any little bits of lettuce in it, sieve the soup at this point. (I rather like the texture and colour of the tiny green bits.)

When you're ready to serve the soup:
- Add sugar, a good grind of black pepper (or if you do not want to see black specks, white pepper) and a small grating of nutmeg. Taste for seasoning and add salt only if necessary.
- Gently reheat soup and just before serving, stir in either a small lump of butter or a little fresh cream.

French bread is good with this, but so are garlic bread or Vogel's Extra Thin.
I don't know if it did indeed make us more tranquil, but it certainly felt soothing and warm on the stormy day after the earthquake.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Just like the picture - chicken terrine

For me, the pathway to cooking something is often pretty random. Finding a well-priced pack of streaky bacon at Moore Wilson last week led to thoughts of chicken terrine. So I bought some chicken livers there, and next day at the supermarket I picked up some boneless, skinless thighs.
          I first made this terrine a couple of decades ago, as I explained in The Colour of Food, where it appears as duck terrine:
         "The first time Harvey roasted ducks for Christmas, I made this on Boxing Day, using a recipe for chicken terrine found in a timely present from friends: The World’s Finest Chicken, by Sonia Silver and Janis Metcalfe. Delicious with quince paste and toast."
          This time I didn't have any leftover duck, but the original recipe is for chicken only, so I thought it was well worth making. I know it's a bit silly, but what I've always loved about this terrine is the fact that, thanks to having the right dish to bake it in, it turns out looking exactly like the picture in the book. But I don't slice it in the dish, because the bacon lining means that it turns out so beautifully onto a plate (see below). I've slightly revised the recipe from my book here.

Chicken terrine

220g chicken livers
90g dry white bread to make crumbs 
350g cooked chicken (and duck if you have any)
If you have it: 50g leftover stuffing, preferably made with walnuts (if no stuffing is available, use a bit more chicken meat and bread)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
good pinch of salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon port
1 tablespoon fresh oreganum, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Enough rashers of bacon (skinny streaky ones are good) to line the terrine dish - drape them across it, down the side, across the bottom and up the other side, then fill in any gaps at the ends.

The order of the instructions here is a bit different from what's in my book, because this time I did
things in a different order, to make the best use of the food processor. 
No need to clean or rinse processor bowl between these steps - do it after you've chopped the livers.

-  Preheat oven to 190°C.
- Turn leftover bread to crumbs in the processor. Toast very lightly on a flat metal tray in the oven for a few minutes while it is heating up.
- Finely chop the herbs in the processor.
- Put herbs and toasted breadcrumbs into a large bowl.
- Mince the cooked meat in the processor and add to herbs and crumbs.
- Coarsely chop the livers briefly in the processor. Use a spatula to get them out and add them to the bowl. Stir into meat, herbs and crumbs.
- Add crushed garlic, seasonings, brandy, port, and  beaten egg, and mix everything together well. Taste to check seasoning.
 Use bacon rashers to line the base and sides of an oval ceramic terrine dish or non-stick loaf tin (approximately 25cm long, 15 cm wide, 6 cm deep).
 Spread mixture into dish evenly over bacon lining, and smooth the top.

-  Cover with a tightly fitting lid or aluminium foil.
-  Place terrine in a large roasting or baking dish. Boil a jugful of water. Either pour enough hot water into the tin to come about two-thirds up the sides of terrine, and transfer carefully to the oven; or (this can be easier) put tin into oven and then pour the water around the terrine dish. 
-  Bake for 1¼ hours, till a very thin knife or sewer inserted into the middle of the terrine comes out clean.
·      Remove lid or foil and carefully pour off any liquid fat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 
(It really does need to be kept overnight to let the flavours develop.)
- Take out of refrigerator at least an hour ahead of serving. Turn out onto a serving plate and slice as required.

Those pretty yellow slices on the side in the photo are mustard fruits - you can buy them in Italian delis. Quince paste is good too. I served this for lunch with a papaya, pear, beansprout and baby spinach salad.