Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Lacto-Fermentation, what's bubbling now...

I won't extrapolate once again about the whys and how-tos of Lacto-Fermentation, I do so all-too-often, and the chat can be found on this blog:  here and particularly in this article that appeared in Permaculture Magazine last year, and also of course on Sandor Ellix Katz's fab Wild Fermentation website.

I thought simply, as I chopped green and purple French beans this afternoon, to share what's fermenting at home now, to show what a range of vegetables can be preserved using this method.  As well as the sauerkraut that I made at the end of July and am eating away - for lunch today with beef carpaccio, raw baby yellow courgettes, cucumber and brown rice with toasted pumpkin seeds...

In the pots fermenting are the following:

Lacto-Fermented Cauliflower (1/2 lt jar)
And, in that jar:  1 Cauli head; 5g Salt; 1tsp whole Cumin; Blackcurrant Leaves; Parsley; Spring Onions; Water.

For those that can't stomach cauliflower this is a great alternative to the cheese sauce disguise, it really peps up the cauliflower, and makes of something dull a spritely veg, excellent too in curries and stir-frys.

Lacto-Fermented Courgettes (1lt jar)
In the jar: Sliced Courgette; Fennel Seedheads; Spring Onions; Fennel Leaves; 10g Salt; Blackcurrant Leaves; Water.

Lacto-fermented Cucumbers and Radishes
3 Whole Cucumbers (pricked); 5 Radishes; Blackcurrant Leaves; fennel Seedheads; Landcress; Rocket; Red Mustard; 10g Salt; Water.

Lacto-Fermented Beans
And this afternoon I made these beans, chopped with Fennel Leaves, 5g of Salt and 3tbsp of Cow's Whey (left over from home-made Cheese), squashed down and covered with water.  The Whey is thick with lactobacilli and works as an alternative catalyst to blackcurrant leaves.  I'll also be doing Lacto-fermented Beetroot, a real favourite, in the next few days.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Part-Cured Pig with Greengages and Apples

Unfazed by a pheasant, by gizzards or liver, I have to admit to being slightly nervous about cooking cuts of meat, particularly when it comes to reared livestock: Pig, Sheep, Cow.  But De-Lish, the North-Norfolk Coast charcutier was sporting some pics of shopmade Petit Salé, and, when I saw it in life, I couldn’t resist.  I admitted my ignorance and the charcutier advised:  Wash, rinse, wash again.  Leave overnight in clean water.  Bake.  

Qu’est-ce qu’un Petit Salé?  Whence the term originates I know not, but I imagine it would be better literally translated as a little bit salted, than, as I would be tempted: small salted thing.  In English one might call it Salt Pork, or, as in a book I am currently reviewing: Simple French Cooking for English Homes (republished by Quadrille), Pickled Pork.  I quite like to think of it as Part-Cured Pig, as, I assume, were it fully cured it wouldn’t need to be cooked.

Here’s Alexandre Dumas’ recipe for Petit Salé, in one lengthy but eloquent sentence from Le grand dictionnaire de cuisine:

Pour faire le petit salé, vous coupez des poitrines de cochons en morceaux ; frottez-les de sel fin comme le lard, ajoutez-y un peu de salpêtre, arrangez-les au fur et à mesure les uns après les autres dans un pot, ayez soin de les bien fouler pour éviter qu’elle ne prennent le goût d’évent ; bouchez les vides que pourra laisser le sel, recouvrez le vas d’un linge blanc et fermez le plus hermétiquement possible et servez-vous au bout de huit ou dix jours pour mettre sur des choux ou sur ce que vous voudrez.

Otherwise, Monsieur le Charcutier suggested looking to Jane Grigson and Lindy Wildsmith for recipes.  I would imagine these are slightly more adventurous than Duras’ simplistic version above.

 Washing petit salé

So, simply:  Wash, rinse, wash. Leave overnight in clean water.  The following day however, I did get adventurous, and laid the piece of meat on a bed of Greengages and Chopped Apples, whole cloves of Garlic a knob of Butter, salt and some Red Onion before baking it at 180C for about half an hour, until cooked.  Deep pink, with a ham-like consistency, lovely and flavoured, surprisingly sweet and not too salty.  

Were I to do it again, I would sweat the onions and garlic first, and lay the Greengages etc on a bed of buttered onions.  I ate it as it was with only a spoonful of Pickled Gooseberries, to cut through any fat and aggrandize the medieval theme.

Next I’ll have to attempt that Petit Salé m’self…

Friday, 26 August 2011

Lamb and Fig Tagine - and Moroccan meanders

I haven't the camera to persuade you of the sumptuous delight that was last night's Lamb and Fig Tagine...She writes, swallowing down the last leftovers in a bout of shovelling, smiling, chop-licking.  But picture: sweet nuggets of Lamb, slow cooked in North African spices with whole homegrown Figs, Patisson and Squash... the lot layered in a ceramic Tagine in an expression of artistic diligence and decadence...Oh, had I but the photo to share.

Instead, let me share the Recipe.

I learnt to make Tagine having found myself living in a dustblown village on the edge of the Moroccan Sahara five, perhaps more, years ago.  Tagine was a staple, a simple dish, prepared by roughly chopping a few veg, placing them in the Tagine with Water, Cumin, Paprika and Olive Oil, and then leaving sat on the stove slowly cooking.  Effortless, delicious.  On grander occasions, a chunk of meat, often Lamb or Chicken was added, some Fruits or Olives.  The lesser members attending the feast would eat the vegetables and the guest of honour, a well-married aunt perhaps, would take the meat, leaving a smidgen for the others.  We ate with our hands of one bowl.  We broke one bread.  Memories are now vague, but, as often when travelling, the food remains, the flavours, the tastes and textures, and the communal act of sharing a meal with the people of that land.  Morocco draws memoryscapes heavy with rasping sweet Mint teas; Rose and Orange scented Sweetmeats; Oases where Pomegranates grow; Dates ripe, sweet and large as your fist; Rooves lain with Apricots sundrying... Those, Polenta bread at dawn eaten dripping with Honey and steaming milky Coffee.  Or, Loubia a streetfood not unlike classy baked beans, Round baked breads dipped into endless bowls of Harira ( a lentilly/chick-pea Soup mad with beef or Lamb or... Thick and Yellow and sustaining); on the coast Sardines fresh grilled.  I have no memory of eating Couscous, nor did I ever try Bastilla (sweet Pigeon Pie) 'til quite recently in Norfolk, but, need I say, falling deeper into reveries, the Hashish sticky and black as Opium, the Opium...
Somehow I hefted a ceramic Moroccan Tagine all the way back overland to Norfolk...

So, the recipe for a basic Tagine:

Chop onions in large rings, place on base of Tagine with Olive Oil, Paprika and Whole Cumin.  Heat without the lid.  Meanwhile seal the meat.  Then layer Meat, Veg (keep large), Legumes, Fruit, Nuts, Olives, whole Cloves of Garlic, whole Chillies artistically - a sort of Food-Mandala in the dish.  Placing the veg that need more cooking lower down, those that need less higher.  Top with a few half-Lemons, more Chillies, fill to rim with water,adding salt, spices, Harissa, Chermoula, and cook lidded for an hour to an hour and a half, until meat cooked, veg tender but not fallen to pieces, juice full of flavour.  I tend to serve with Couscous or a large Flatbread (actually Nigella's recipe from Domestic Goddess), perhaps some Yogurt and extra Harissa.

For Lamb and Fig Tagine I used: Onion, Garlic, Shallots, Florence Fennel, Pumpkin, Patisson, Courgette, Fresh Figs, Black Olives and Fresh Chillies.  Paprika, Cumin, Ground Ginger, Harissa and Ras-el-hanout.

Otherwise, root veg are great in Tagines, Cinnamon and Apricots are nice additions, as is Pheasant or Chick Peas.  Once again, when you have the basics, you can put in what you best like.

Saucy additions to  Tagines come in the form of:

Chermoula (Sauce for tipping on your Tagine and for cooking Morroccan style fishes, meats etc)
2 Cloves Garlic, Salt, Chilli Powder, ground Cumin, Pepper, Fresh Coriander and Flat Leaf Parsley, Juice of 2 Lemons, 1 tsp Vinegar, 1 Tbsp oil.  

Crush Garlic and Spices to a paste in a Pestle and Mortar.  Mix with rest of ingredients.  Heat gently to release aromas, do not boil.

(Recipe from a great, seemingly authentic Moroccan Cook Book A Taste of Morocco, published Hachette)

There are a million recipes, my favourite a basic blend of Olive Oil, Whole Cumin, Crushed Garlic, Coarse Salt and Loads of crushed Chilli.
But otherwise Roast Garlic, Red Peppers, Chilli, and blend with Olive Oil and ground Cumin.


I had meant to combine this post with recipe and pics of part-cured pig with apple and greengages, but it'll have to wait...

Likewise, photos to be posted someday soon.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Hedgerow Syrup and A Line Made by Walking

A chesty cold and sore throat on waking took me to the fields for some dawn air and to gather some of those Elderberries hanging bulbous, big as Blackcurrants, before the birds did.  Wellybooted over pyjamas - for the Elder grows in patches of nettles high as my hips - I stepped out.  The fields dewladen, my steps marked the grass invoking Richard Long's beautiful artwork - A Line Made by Walking.

A Line Made by Walking - Richard Long

The hedgerows brimming with fruits, as well as the Elderberries, I grabbed handfuls of Haws and Rosehips, Blackberries and Wild Apples... a few Crabapples, some wild Plums all to go in the syruppy concoction.  Chopped up the hard fruit, just covered with water in a pan and brought to simmer, then adding the soft fruits (remove the elderberries from their very bitter and cyanide rich stalks using a fork).  Pummel the lot adding a few Cloves, some grated Ginger and half a stick of Cinnamon.   Simmer gently for up to an hour, so the liquid is rich gloopy purple.

Strain for several hours or overnight through muslin.  Then, adding between 500g-750g of sugar per litre of liquid heat once again until the sugar is dissolved, the syrup just boiling.  Pour immediately into sterilised bottles and seal tightly.   The syrup keeps thus for several months, rich in Vitamin C and wild goodness it is somewhere between a cordial and a medicine.  Drink hot or cold, diluting with water, on those cold-ridden days, or wintry evenings by the fire, adding a splash of brandy when necessary.  Otherwise add to Crumbles, Pies and even stews for some late Summer Hedgerow Flavour.


If you happen to have a steam juicer this concoction can be made without sugar, the steamer will pasteurise the juice and it can likewise be kept in sterilised bottles for several months.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Bullace Gin + Sloe Gin

The season is nigh', to rummage again in the hedgerows, concoct what preserves one might.  The next posts will surely be full of forage and preserving, as we hoard in preparation for the winter.  The weekend was spent on bikes foraging, and this evening a brief stint at Sloe and Bullace Gins.

I have already posted a foolhardy recipe for the Sloe Gin... Here's a brew made with something of our rampant garden hedge - we suspect it is Bullace.

The same recipe applies for Bullace as for Sloe -  about 4pts Gin to 3lb Fruit and 1lb Sugar.
(I notice however the River Cottage handbook suggests equiv: 1.2 pt : 1lb :1lb , so perhaps one should say each to their own, depending (always) on what is to hand, and what feels right)
Shake/stir regularly and allow to mature over several months (at least two).  Then strain through muslin, bottle, and age further in bottles.  My father prides himself on drinking his ancient vintages of the stuff, here in the cottage we have trouble keeping it 'til Summer.  Indeed, my father is so abstemious, he would ne'er pick a Sloe before the first frost.... here, we couldn't wait.  There will surely be a post-frost batch to follow.

Drink these wintry Gins in the depths of the season, huddled by the fire, fill a hip-flask on a blustery walk, or use for a farmhouse Kir aperitif, mixing it with home brewed Elderflower Champagne.  Right now however we're drinking a more sober homemade Blackberry + Lemonade with Water Mint.  (Juice of 3 Lemons, 100g Sugar, a few squashed Blackberries and some Water Mint leaves, topped up with Sparkling Water and Ice if you have.)

Friday, 19 August 2011

Lacto-Fermented Horseradish

As with all Lacto-Fermentation, this recipe is subject to experimentation, and depends on what you have to hand.  Here I grated Horseradish, muddled it with Parsley and Radish Tops.  Stuffed the lot in jars with 10g or salt to 1lt jar (in this case 2.5g to 250ml Jar).  Pressed in tight and covered in water.  Left a few days at room-temperature, when obviously fermenting moved to a cool-dark place.

Eat at your leisure, keeping the horseradish out of the air by consistently checking and topping up the layer of water.

Eat with Beef, Mackerel, or Beetroot... Or trying tossing into a 'Slaw to spark it up.


For further information on Lacto-Fermentation, please refer to other posts.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Tea and Saki

If one's soul was really enslaved at one's mistress's feet, 
how could one talk coherently about weakened tea?

Stopping for tea, an afternoon last week... and tea it was, leaf-tea in cups and saucers, bread, butter and that blackcurrant jam, radishes and salt, à la façon française... recalled a story by Saki, entitled: Tea.

Proposing marriage, even to a nice girl like Joan, was a rather irksome business

But as James Cushat-Prinkly sets out one afternoon to fulfil his duty, he realises with distaste that his arrival coincides with the hour of afternoon tea.

Joan would be seated at a low table, spread with an array of silver kettles and cream-jugs and delicate porcelain tea-cups, behind which her voice would tinkle pleasantly in a series of little friendly questions about weak or strong tea, how much, if any, sugar, milk, cream and so-forth.

He takes a detour via a distant cousin Rhoda, who happens to be having a picnic-meal of bread and butter and caviare, red-pepper and lemon, and tea.  Based on this, and amusing conversation, Cushat-Prinkly's marriage proposal is instantly transferred to this cousin.

Only to find, coming into the drawing-room, once married:

Rhoda was seated at a low table, behind a service of dainty porcelain and gleaming silver.  There was a pleasant tinkling note in her voice as she handed him a cup.  'You like it weaker than that, don't you?  Shall I put some more hot water to it?'


Tea,  by Saki

In 76 Short Stories, Collins, London 1956

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Habas con Jamón, Courgette Gratin

Early Summer, in this belated garden at least, brings a wealth of Broad-Beans, Spring-Onions and young Courgettes.  With today’s warm breeze blowing through the cottage, we are not thinking of hot food, but only a few days since the fires were lit and the windows tight-closed.

One of my favourite hot Broad-Bean dishes is the Spanish Habas con Jamón.  It is in fact quite the thing for those warm breezes blowing through whitewashed windows: redolent of searching for midday shade from drybaked Andalusian streets, stepping, cowering from the sun into the sudden dark cool of a café.  Appears from the darkness looming: a bar, stools sat with a few elderly men drinking coffee (short and black in glasses sat on saucers) or wine, sherry in tiny glasses, above their heads Jamón Serrano hanging.   On the corner of the bar, in front of a blue/white tiled wall, a cluster of ceramic dishes Pulpo perhaps, cold Tortilla or resplendent with Winkles.  On this occasion a superb, if understated Tapa:  Habas con Jamón.  Traditionally beans and ham, hot from the kitchen in a rich tomato sauce, Habas con Jamón can also be done without the tomatoes in a lighter more summery version or indeed raw (peel the Broad-Beans toss with Jamón Serrano, coarse Salt, Black-Pepper, Olive Oil and thinly sliced wet Garlic).

My variation (seen above) was based on a Habas-craving and what I had in the garden/kitchen at that instant.

Habas con Jamón hecho en casa:

Pod peas and broad beans (peel beans if desired).  Chop Mange-Tout, French Beans, Courgettes, Onion, Saucisson, Spring Onion into slightly-larger than broad-bean sized pieces, peel eight cloves of (wet if possible) Garlic.

I suggest basing amounts and ingredients on what you have available.  I also used a Patisson and some Courgette Flowers when I made this.

Gently heat Olive Oil in a frying-pan, adding first Onion, then Garlic, then Courgettes, Saucisson, a whole Sprig of Thyme and of Rosemary and a couple of fresh Bay Leaves, taking care to keep heat low.  Add Spring Onion and the Beans and Peas, toss in oil then add a splash of water so as to prevent burning or sticking and cover for five minutes or so until the beans are just-cooked, still retaining their colour.

Serve with a squeeze of Lemon, fresh Oregano and Nasturtium Flowers, a chunk of bread, and in this case some home-made Cottage Cheese.


Courgette Gratin

A sudden influx of Courgettes from the farm had us on perpetual Courgette Soup, that and Courgettes fried, steamed, barbecued with every meal.  Then as the weather darkened so did talk turn to Gratin.  The thought fomented over a few days and on the third I came home with a pot of Crème Fraiche and some Binham Blue, and we set to it.

Gratin for me suggests French childhoods, often a creamy rice dish with a vegetable of sorts in it, served in a deep dish, the sort the English might use for Shephard’s Pie.  It isn’t glamorous, but it is continental.  We were obliged to forgo the rice as a friend dining with us was on something low-carb… same friend rid Gratin of any pretentions whatsoever, saying it is the French term for anything covered in melted cheese.  Quick then to interfere, I think now he was perhaps right.  I believe a Macaroni Cheese in France is a Gratin de Macaronis, as a Cauliflower cheese – Gratin de Chou-Fleur.  A name used in England to somewhat glamorise those comfort foods indispensable to our diet.

We did slightly glam-up our version by using Blue Cheese, Crème Fraiche and White Wine as opposed to béchamel and super-market Cheddar.

Cut Courgettes into rounds.  Marinate briefly in Olive Oil, Salt, Black-Pepper and Garden Herbs.  Fry off sliced onions and Courgettes in Olive Oil.  Layer in a dish with more Black-Pepper, dollops of Crème Fraiche, splashes of White Wine (to help retain moisture and add a sophisticated flavour) chopped Oregano, Spring-Onions, Parsley, wet Garlic.  Top with more coarse-ground Black Pepper and Binham-Blue, or similar Blue Cheese.  Cook in the oven at about 180C for twenty minutes or until cheese is just browning, courgettes are soft, the dish is moist…