Folklore in the kitchen.

It has been one heck of a Christmas and believe me when I say that it is highly unlikely that anyone in the Northern Hemisphere was the recipient of more chutney than me.  I’m in the enviable position of needing more and more things to put the chutney on.  Spicy tomato chutney vies for my attention with rich, roasted flavours and a chilli kick. Pear and honey chutney jumps out with sweetness and subtlety.  What to do?  Decisions, decisions.  It gets tougher still:  good friends presented me with a chutney packing a real punch.  A chutney simply known as Folklore–  chunky, fruity and full of depth from the dark, yet noble real ale that it is made with.  It is formidable to say the least.

Cast into this fruit-filled arena a newcomer, an unknown from the cupboards of a kitchen in the north of England.  It was time to make my own chutney, one that I would be proud of, one that I could share with you and my family at Christmas.  I’m very happy with what I came up with.  It contains all of the flavours that I love at Christmas with a little chipotle for  fun and goes particularly well with my pork and apricot terrine.  Without further delay, I present to you my Christmas chutney and wish you all the very best for the New Year!

Christmas chutney

250ml red wine vinegar

230g soft light brown sugar

200ml cider vinegar

200g dried apricots (chopped)

1 onion (chopped)

1 chipotle chilli

3 cloves garlic (chopped)

2 tblspoons grated ginger

2 tspoons coriander seeds

zest and juice of 1 orange

1 tspoon salt

Before you begin this recipe, be aware that your kitchen will smell of vinegar from the moment you begin heating the mixture.  You may want to open the windows at the beginning.

Put everything except the coriander seeds into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Meanwhile, heat the coriander seeds in a dry pan until they begin to crackle (but not burn) and then grind them using a pestle and mortar.  Add the powder to the chutney pan.

Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer gently for an hour with the lid on.  Stir the chutney every now and again. Take the chutney off the heat when you are happy with the consistency.  Chunky and tender with not too much liquid is best.  Transfer to a glass jar to cool and thicken and remember to remove the chipotle.  Serve with your favourite meat and cheese.  This chutney is great with pork.  Liven up your sausage sandwiches or pair it with a pork pie!

Oh, you expected a full jar nicely labelled? Sorry, this chutney is in constant use!

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Use your loaf (tin).

I trust your Christmas was filled with family, joy and inevitable chaos.  Mine too, hence the late post.  Despite the passing of the big day, I’m going to share the recipe for my very own pork and apricot terrine.  It’s perfect for a buffet and I make one (sometimes two) every Christmas.

You can easily adapt this recipe so that your own Christmas flavours are represented.

Pork & apricot terrine

500g sausage meat

14 slices streaky bacon

14 dried apricots

1 egg

2 tblspoons ground black pepper

1 tblspoon fresh thyme (chopped)

a pinch of ground allspice

a pinch of mace

a pinch of cinnamon

plenty of sea salt for seasoning to taste

olive oil

You have to admire the humble loaf tin.  So useful!  Line one with the bacon so that half of each slice is in the tin and the other half is draping over the sides.  The bacon keeps the terrine together as it cooks and will tighten up as water evaporates from it.

Grind plenty of black pepper into the lined tin.  Next, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients by mashing them together with the back of a fork.  A drop of olive oil into the mixture helps to keep it moist.  Tip half of the sausage mixture into the loaf tin and spread it evenly with the fork.  Gently press the apricots into the meat in pairs.  This will ensure that the apricots form part of each slice as you cut the terrine.

Top the apricots with the remaining sausage meat and once again, use the fork to even out the surface.  Now all you have to do is lift each bacon slice to cover the terrine and overlap them to form a parcel.  You can store the terrine as it is in the fridge until you are ready to cook it, or you can cook it immediately.

Place the terrine in a roasting tin and pour enough hot water into the surrounding tin to reach almost the top of the terrine.  Cover the loaf tin with foil and keep the edges sealed tightly.  Place in the middle of the oven at 180C for an hour.  The water surrounding the loaf tin will ensure even cooking and the foil will trap steam to help cook the meat without drying it out.

After an hour, remove the foil and continue to cook the terrine until the bacon on top is nicely done to your liking.  Using oven gloves, lift the loaf tin out of the water and drain of the excess fat rendered through cooking.  You may want to keep this fat and roast some potatoes in it later!  The meat will have shrunk away from the edges of the tin; this is normal.  Use a pair of tongs to turn the meat over.  Keep the meat in the little loaf tin and return it to the oven to brown and crisp up.

Once done, remove the meat and let it cool for quite some time.  When it is cooled, it will be firm and easy to slice.  Serve the terrine cold with a nice Christmas chutney.  You don’t have any Christmas chutney?  No problem.  Watch this space!

 

Making it mine.

I don’t always feel like blazing a trail.  Every now and again, it’s nice to follow in the footsteps of those who share a passion for similar things and are willing to create and share with the kind of gusto that I secretly hope I have.  My thanks, then, to Nigella Lawson for her commitment to artery-blocking sweet treats and flavours that pack a punch.

Not many Christmas’s ago, the plucky, self-acclaimed domestic goddess shared her recipe for Christmas rocky road bars.  I enjoyed making them and have adapted them each year since to suit my own taste.  This year, I’ve been most happy with the addition of glace ginger.  I knew it would come in handy at some point!  The following recipe is extremely simple, in the same way that the no bake chocolate cake was.  A great one to make with children and so quick to put together.  With only a day or so before the big day, you could easily empty your cupboard of fun stuff and combine it in syrup, butter and chocolate!

Festive rocky road bars (Adapted from Nigella Lawson)

300g dark chocolate

170g butter

125g milk chocolate

100g glace cherrries

100g glace ginger

100g amaretti biscuits

100g almonds

100g marsh mallows

4 tblspoons golden syrup

1 tspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter and chocolate in a deep saucepan over a low heat.  Stir in the vanilla and the syrup.  Pour in the almonds, cherries and ginger and stir until coated.  Next, crush the biscuits, but not too finely, and mix into the chocolate.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the marsh mallows.  Tip the mixture into a tin lined with baking paper and refrigerate for a couple of hours until set.  Cut into bars and dust with icing sugar.  Sneak into the kitchen at every opportunity to stuff one into your mouth.

Tomorrow, my sausage and apricot terrine!

Soup to start…

Coco doesn't mind the cold weather.

Brrrrr!  It hasn’t been too warm recently, but that only serves to fuel my efforts in the kitchen in a bid to warm our bones and lift our spirits.  My love of soup is no secret, but with the festive season in full and jolly motion, I couldn’t possibly post a meagre soup recipe and wish you all the best.  So, I’ll begin with soup and then move onto some more substantial treats like my tasty terrine and some festive rocky road bars!  Yay!

I’m sure that if you’re a fan of soup, you’ll have your own winter favourite that springs to mind when thinking of a dark and icy evening.  My perfect winter warmer is French onion soup, but it hasn’t always been that way.

The very first time I tried French onion soup was not in France.  Sadly, no charming tale will follow of soup made by a gentleman in a small French village as the snow gently buried our broken-down car.  Instead, a chilly evening in Hong Kong (if such a thing existed), as I gingerly pushed open the door to Jimmy’s Kitchen.  The restaurant was dimly lit and the dark wood and old photographs added to the atmosphere.  I ordered the onion soup and delighted in the deep, warming flavours.  I’ve never looked back.  Winter night?  Onion soup.

Serving the soup is fun if you add a chunk of French bread and melt cheese over everything.  This time, I resisted.  The following recipe is simple and guaranteed to banish the winter chills.

French onion soup

3 red onions (sliced)

3 white/brown onions (sliced)

1 pint beef stock

1 glass red wine

butter

sea salt

pepper

Begin by gently frying the onions in a little butter on the lowest heat.  The onions should cook very gently and caramelize.  This takes a while and when done, the onions will be brown, but not burned.  If the onions begin to burn, turn the heat down and add tiny amounts of water or stock.

Next, transfer the onions to the pot that you intend to cook the soup in (if they aren’t in it already).  Pour in the stock and the wine and boil rapidly for a minute or two.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for at least fifteen minutes (and up to thirty).  Season the soup to taste.  I sometimes add sprigs of thyme at this stage for a final flavour.  I told you it was simple!  As long as you cook the onions for long enough, you’ll have a dark soup with bags of flavour.  You can easily make it with fewer onions too.  I like a lot.  God bless the onion!

Tomorrow, festive rocky road bars (with pics, I promise)!

All’s fair in love and cheesecake.

Which wonders of the food world make you salivate at the mere thought of them?  For me, it’s a good pizza, a slice of bougatsa, Japanese curry, Cajun shrimp, souvlaki or egg and chips- probably all served on separate plates, but not necessarily.

For my favourite little food guinea pig (N), it’s likely that white chocolate cheesecake will make the list.  Alongside blondies, white chocolate cheesecake is one of my few creations that provokes such an excited reaction from her.  I always have white chocolate and cream cheese on hand in case there’s trouble at the ranch.

Perhaps there are wives or husbands across the world right now, preparing a favourite meal for their spouse: a tasty cushion to soften the blow of some bad news, an apology for dessert.  Perhaps there are families gathered around their go-to dish for particular events.  Does anyone else have an “In case of emergency eat this” dish?

I’m happy to report that I’ve not needed to break the glass on the emergency white chocolate for a long time.  In fact, it’s been over a year since the cake has made an appearance (and even then, it was to brighten up a rainy weekend).  Time then to share with you that most precious of recipes: the recipe that puts smiles on me and my dearest no matter what.  Her smile for the cheesecake, mine for her smile.  “For goodness sake!  He’s supposed to be writing about  food!  What’s is he playing at?”  Relax, here’s the oh-so easy recipe.  Enjoy.

White chocolate cheesecake

300g cream cheese

200g white chocolate

175g digestive biscuits

100g caster sugar

120g butter (melted)

60ml double cream

1 tspoon cinnamon

1 tspoon vanilla extract

Begin by crushing the biscuits and stirring in the melted butter and cinnamon.  Press the biscuits into the base of an eight inch round cake tin and place in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.

Next, use an electric whisk to combine all of the sugar, vanilla, cream cheese and cream in a bowl.  Melt the white chocolate gently over a pan of hot water and blend into the cream cheese mixture.

Tip the mixture onto the biscuit base and spread evenly using a plastic spatula.  Place the cake in the fridge for an hour or more to make it firm and easier to cut.  You can now decorate it in any way you wish, but I’ll be honest, I never get as far as that stage.