Friday, February 28, 2014

Pea risotto

We’ve been quite lucky with the peas in our garden, they went in a little late and have given us a glut of plump pods, which we still have a good meal or two left on the plant, well that is if they survive my greedy little hands snapping them off and ripping open the snappy pod and scoffing the sweet round peas. Ever since the plant showed signs that it was actually going to produce I’ve been hanging out to make a risotto using our home grown peas, frozen is fine but nothing really beats peas freshly picked and podded mere minutes before being folded in some lush steaming risotto.

So to justice to the fresh produce, make your own stock or at least get some good quality stuff. It’s not too hard to get a stock going, and if you have a pressure cooker well you have no excuse at all not to make your own fresh chicken stock. Take one chicken carcass and any other saved chicken bits and bobs and place in the cooker, add a bunch of herbs, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, sage, then a carrot or two, roughly chopped, an onion or two depending on the size, a good dash of salt and pepper, pour in two litres of water and cook on high pressure for about 40 minutes. Strain the stock through a cloth into a saucepan and put on a medium-low heat and bring to a simmer, reduce down to about one litre, skim off any scum as it reduces. Strain into a bowl through a cloth, cover and let cool, when cold enough transfer to the fridge. It should set up to a nice firm jelly overnight.

I had about twenty pea pods, which would be about half a cup of actual peas, so the peas are podded the peas set aside and the pods put into a pot with the chicken stock and a fresh bunch of thyme and parsley, bought gently to a simmer and left for about fifteen minutes, refreshing and infusing the stock, it is then strained and put back in the pot and put on the lowest flame. Adjust the seasoning of the stock with lemon or vinegar but not too much salt at this stage.

Getting the risotto together is very simple and quite therapeutic standing in front of the stove stirring and folding the rice, adding the stock little by little until it’s reached just the right consistency, not hard at all, just remember slower is better.

With a large pan on a medium heat add a good glug of olive oil and toss in a finely diced shallot, sauté until translucent and then add a cup of risotto rice cook until almost fully translucent, stirring constantly, deglaze the pan with a cup of dry white wine. When the wine has fully evaporated add in a small ladleful of stock (about 70ml) and stir in, keep stirring and folding the rice, helping release the starch, a silicon spatula makes easy work of this, when the stock is all but absorbed add in another ladleful of stock and repeat, the rice should take the whole litre and will take a little more than twenty minutes to cook on a low heat.

Once the rice is lush and cooked, taste and adjust the seasoning, fold through the peas, they’ll take no time at all to cook. I gilded the lily a little and stirred through a large tablespoon of ricotta, mainly because I had it and it needed to be used. Fold in a chiffonade of mint and spoon into a serving bowl and drizzle with a little peppery olive oil.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Duck confit with beets

Well the long wait for the confit to age in the fridge is over, the legs had been submerged in the duck fat for a little over two months and it was well and truly time to dig them out and roast them up. You don’t need to age your confit, but doing so intensifies the gamey ducky flavour. The crispy duck leg was served up with a pan seared pickled beet salad and a beet gastrique made using the cider vinegar that pickled the beets.

The night before beetroot was wrapped up in tinfoil along with some aromatics, allspice, cinnamon and peppercorns, baked in a moderate oven until tender then left to cool. When cool enough to handle, unpack the beets and rub off the skin, slice into bite size wedges, place in a container and cover with cider vinegar and a little salt. Refrigerate overnight.

To make the gastrique, slowly caramelize some sugar in a pan and then pour in an equal quantity of the pickling vinegar and a couple sprigs of thyme. Let the liquid reduce to a syrup, but don’t reduce to far. Pick out the thyme sprigs, and set the sauce aside.

Preheat the oven to about 220°C and get a oven proof sauté pan on a high heat. Dig out the legs from the fat and carefully scrape off and excess fat. Place the legs skin side down in the searingly hot pan and cook for a few minutes then transfer to the oven for about 5 minutes. Place the legs on a board and set aside to rest for a couple of minutes.

While the duck is resting, toast some hazelnuts and sauté the sliced beetroot in some olive oil until caramelised. Toss all together with some chopped parsley.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pâté de Campagne

I bought myself a wee early Christmas present, a Le Creuset Terrine, I’ve always wanted one but the price tag has put me off until now, however I had plans for my contributions toward the Christmas fare and it seemed as good of an excuse as any to indulge myself. I’ve previously mentioned the Walnut bread and Chicken Liver Pâté, but they were mere sides to my ambitious plans, well maybe not that ambitious, of Pâté de Campagne is pretty simple to put together, although the mincer from hell almost broke my wrist but apart from that it’s just few simple steps and patience.

You’ll have to excuse the lack of gram measurements, as these will depend on how large your terrine is. Also if you can get pork liver, great, if not use chicken, the same can be said of caul fat which I couldn’t get my hands on so I used very fatty belly bacon.

2 parts pork shoulder
1 part pork back fat
1 part liver

Trim the livers and cut in half, cut the back fat and should in to cubes small enough to fit through your mincer feeder. Chuck the whole lot in a bowl that will fit in your fridge.

White wine
Pink Salt (optional, use 1% by weight of the meat)

Roughly chop the herbs and shallots and toss into the bowl with the meat, grate in nutmeg to taste. Pour in a glass of wine and a splash of brandy. Add the pink salt if you’re using. Stir through and cover. Refrigerate overnight.

Streaky bacon/caul fat
1 egg
Salt (around 2% by weight, this can be adjusted later)

Set your mincer up with a medium die and pass through the meat mixture. Using your fingers mix through the salt and egg. Take a small portion and wrap in cling film, making it water tight, and poach in some simmering water until cooked, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, remember that the terrine is served cool so the seasoning will be more muted.

Line the terrine with the bacon (or fat) and pour in the minced mixture. Tap the terrine on the bench to get rid of any air pockets. Fold the bacon over the top of the mixture and place on the lid. Place the terrine in a bain-marie (with hot water) and into an oven set at 150–160°C, cook for about 2.5 hours, or until the internal temperature is about 70°C (65°C should be enough though).

Remove from the bain-marie and let cool, then weigh down a tight fitting lid with a couple of cans, use a stiff piece of cardboard cut to the correct shape and wrap in tin foil, refrigerate overnight.

Serve with pickled onions, cornichons, hot mustard and my walnut flat bread.