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There is something very British about pheasant. Images of men in tweed, wearing Barbour jackets, valets reloading rifles before handing them back to their masters and hounds with bird in mouth come to mind. Cooks and servants at the manor preparing a banquet in celebration of the glut of birds shot.

Thomas Becket famously dined on pheasant the night before his infamously violent death in 1170. Tudor kings and queens dined on elaborate pheasant dishes with colourful plumes adorning the roasted bird. And we often read about pheasant being cooked in Dickensian stories and Austen novels, so it surprises me, that all things considered, how infrequently we see it in restaurants and supermarkets.

Both chicken and pheasant were recorded as having been brought to Europe by Phoenician traders but chicken with its bland taste and texture has won universal acclaim; with people usually eating chicken more than twice a week in different reincarnations.

This Christmas, my nephew mentioned he’d never tried pheasant; actually, neither had the rest of us in the family. As Christmas Day traditions must be kept (turkey is a must) we tried cooking pheasant for the first time in the run up to Christmas.

Having read the butcher’s instructions on the label of the plucked, prepackaged, plastic wrapped pheasants and several internet searches later, it was clear that pheasant are in danger of drying out in the oven.

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On taking the bird out of its packaging to place on its roasting trivet, the smell was strong and putrid. Slightly worried about this we looked at each other quizzically and thought, let’s just give this a go, if we don’t like it we just won’t cook it again. Admittedly whilst it sat on the trivet the smell seemed to dissipate and our fears were allayed.

We were not inflicting food poisoning on ourselves a few days before Christmas!

We prepared a herb butter and squeezed this between skin and breast meat. And stuffed the cavity with dried prunes and figs – the pheasant can take bold flavours; having bold flavours (and smells) itself. Truss the bird up before putting it into the oven so that the stuffing remains in the cavity and if you have any streaky bacon (we didn’t) protect the breast meat by laying several rashers across it.

Roast the bird on its trivet of vegetables for anything from 1hr 10mins to 1hr 30mins at 180°C. Allow to rest whilst you tend to gravy and mashed potatoes and any other vegetable side dish you’re serving.

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In terms of flavour, the breast meat had a slight herby/gamey taste but otherwise was quite transient and could pretty much carry other flavours with it but the leg meat, especially the drumstick was very strong and bold in flavour. Texture-wise this again was different, the leg meat was juicy, however, the breast meat was very dry.

I dare say that with repeated practise you’d be able to hone in your pheasant roasting skills or maybe even prefer cooking it in a slow cooker or in other guises.

With gravy, stuffing and mash this makes for a delicious autumnal/wintery evening meal sat in the warmth of your homely kitchen. As with other birds, the key is not to dry it out – the herb butter and streaky bacon will go a long way in protecting the integrity of the breast meat but keep an eye on this. Depending on the size of the pheasant being served it may be pertinent to think of half a bird per person so that they can try the leg and breast meat as there are joys to be had in both.

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Pheasant season runs from 1st October to 1st February, so even if you’re not up to cooking pheasant during the Christmas season you can give it a go in the new year. If I can locate pheasant back home, I’d definitely be game to give it another go (pun intended).

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Pheasant

Posted: December 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

IMG-9263These are the sort of thing that you snack on quite easily without realising how many tails you are unashamedly stacking on the side of your plate!  Don’t be fooled, this is nothing like the whiff of Hawaiian Tropic sun lotion nor is it dessert-sweet – just a delicious morsel of crispy fried prawn with a tropical twist.  Actually, this would be perfect with pineapple rice on the side as a main dish.

1Kg of prawns easily serves 4 as a part of a mezze style table, however, depending on appetites depends on whether you’ll be fighting over the last prawn or calling it quits before sneakily stealing one last one before dessert.

Ingredients:

1Kg of uncooked grey prawns

1/2 cup of plain flour (all purpose)

1/2 tspn salt

1/4 tspn garlic salt

2 egg whites

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 cup dessicated coconut

Method:

1st: Remove the shell off the prawns leaving the tails in tact.  Devein the prawns and butterfly them.  Press down on the prawn using the back of a knife to flatten the prawn.

2nd: In one bowl mix the flour, salt and garlic salt.  In another whisk the egg whites and in a third bowl mix the panko breadcrumbs with the dessicated coconut.

3rd: Hold the prawn by its tail, and dredge it first through the flour mixture, then the egg whites and then the panko breadcrumb mixture.

4th: Place on a baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 30mins to an hour.

5th: Fry by your chosen method.  When shallow frying keep an eye on the colour of the oil and change as necessary.  Drain on kitchen paper

6th: Serve with chilli jam to dip the prawns in or a spritz of lime, or pineapple rice.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. would be happy to serve these in their restaurants!

 

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Once the staple of healthy hippies, sourdough has quickly become the best thing since sliced bread!  The superb flavour of a finished loaf cannot be beaten with its tangy, chewy, smoky taste; this robust bread is the undisputed King of Bread for a reason.

Sourdough is on the rise (pardon the pun) and is as trendy as hipsters, beards and unicorn frappuccinos.  Instagram is flooded with photos of artisan slices of sourdough toast with obligatory avocado topping but sourdough isn’t new of course – it’s the oldest form of leavened bread and is thought to have been around since Ancient Egyptian times.

The moreish, tangy taste blinds you to the Sourdough Paradox: it is the simplest and yet most complicated of breads to bake!

Its simplicity comes from its ingredients as all you need is flour, water and salt.  You will also need patience, lots of it.  This is not one of those quick loaves that you’ll knock up one afternoon in time for tea.  Sourdough is not difficult to make in terms of kitchen technique but makes for great weekend baking as you will need time to potter to and from the kitchen letting the dough rest, kneading, proving, etc.  Alternatively, it’s something that can be prepared on a Friday evening ready for baking on Saturday morning.  Whereas commercial yeast will rise a loaf in hours, the sourdough journey takes days, helping develop its flavour and distinct crust and it all starts by making a sourdough starter.

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter 1A sourdough starter is just a mix of flour and water that you leave to ferment in a warm place; its new home, keep your eye on it and feed it every day.  Basically, the wild yeasts feed off the flour and generate carbon dioxide which you want to trap in the bread.  At the same time the bacteria present also feed, multiply and produce ethanol – which can be seen as a liquid floating on top of the batter that gives the starter its sweet, beer smell.  Stir this back into the mixture as this is what gives the sourdough its distinctive taste.

Every day for a about a week, you need to feed your sourdough starter.  Add equal measures of flour and water, give it a good stir and allow it to rest in its warm home.  Alex French Guy Cooking on Youtube uses only mineral water as he believes the chlorine in tap water can kill both yeast and bacteria – I have used tap water without problems.

Paul Hollywood adds slices of seedless grapes to his starter, whereas Nigel Slater has been known to add yoghurt and sultanas to his.  Rhubarb can also work just as well.  Nigella adds a sprinkling of commercial yeast to kick hers off.  I prefer to keep mine plain and true to its ancient roots.  If you are going to use fruit, I recommend you sieve this out after the initial ferment as you don’t want bits of grape/rhubarb in your dough.

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The starter can be as fickle as a tamagotchi pet!  Keep your eye on it as it may seem slow at first and almost as if the thing has died on you but keep up with the ritual of pouring some out, adding equal parts of flour and water as eventually it will bloom.  As long as it doesn’t smell off then you’re ok.  Monitor its progress daily as suddenly it can erupt from its vessel leaving a lava-like spill down the sides of your jar and onto the shelf it’s resting on, which is not as easy to clean as you’d think!  If you think there may be danger of this, pour some of your sourdough starter out reserving at least 75g of starter.  Keep topping up flour and water so that you have 225g of flour mixture to work with.

At any stage you can give any excess starter to friends, neighbours – as I did, however, let them know at what stage of the process you’re at.  The photos below show her results following a Paul Hollywood recipe:

Once you’ve got this going, as long as you feed it every now and again, you’ll never have to make one from scratch again!  Keeping it in hibernation in the fridge will also help prolong its life or even freeze some of it for future use.

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At least 12 hours before you start making your bread, mix 225g of your starter culture with 75g of flour and 75g of warm water so that you have a total of 375g (300g for the loaf and 75g to keep).  Mix well and leave in a warm place.  This is now the “levain” that you will be using to raise your sourdough loaf.

If it’s bubbling away several hours later, you know it’s ready.  One final check is the floating test: put a spoonful of it into some water, if it floats its ready.

Sourdough bread

I followed a Hobbs House Bakery recipe but there are many sourdough recipes that you can follow and youtube tutorials to follow.

Ingredients:

460g of strong bread flour (either all white flour or a mix of spelt/wholewheat/rye)

300g sourdough starter (levain)

10g sea salt

230ml warm water

Method:

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1st: Autolyse: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly using a dough scraper, a food mixer or your fingers.  Let the mixture rest for 30mins so that the flour hydrates fully as this makes for a better dough.  Cover with cling film or a tea towel and keep in a warm place.

2nd: Kneading and Folding: Hold the dough in your hands slap the overhang onto the surface where it should stick, and fold the rest of the dough you are still holding over.  Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat the process for a few mins.

Repeat every 30mins for at least 3 or 4 hours (First Prove) depending on the tackiness of the dough.

3rd: Shape the dough into a ball by folding from the edges of the dough to the centre and invert this onto your surface.  Use a dough scraper, cleaver or your hands and try to create some surface tension over the surface of the ball of dough by pulling the dough towards you, rotating the ball and repeating.  Once you have created enough surface tension it is ready for its overnight prove.

4th: Second Prove (Overnight prove): Use either a proving basket called a banneton, or line a Pyrex bowl with a clean dishcloth and liberally dust with flour to stop the dough sticking to the basket/dishcloth.  Place the dough ball upside down in the bowl and cover. Allow to prove overnight in the fridge.IMG-0171

5th: Take the proved dough out of the fridge at least 2 hours before you bake it so that it comes up to room temperature.  Before you are ready to bake, place a dutch oven or large casserole pot into the oven and preheat to 250˚C.

6th: Very gently take the dough out of its proving basket / pyrex bowl by upturning it onto a floured bakers peel, tray or board.  Taking care not to burn yourself, sit the dough in the dutch oven and spray liberally with a water bottle.  Clamp on the lid and place in the oven.  Bring the temperature down to 230˚C and bake for 20mins with the lid on and then another 20mins with the lid off.

If you are not going to use a dutch oven/casserole pot, then spray water directly into the oven or put a tray of boiling water into the oven as the steam generated in the oven is what gives the Sourdough its magnificent crust.

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Once the bread is baked – you can check this by tapping the base, if it sounds hollow it’s ready; allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 40mins before you cut into it.

Toasted sourdough and butter is great for Weekend breakfast as is the trendy avocado and quail’s egg or salmon combo.

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Sourdough Planner

1. Sunday night create your sourdough starter.  Remember to feed it every day as explained above.

2. Once you have an established starter culture: Thursday night take your sourdough starter out of the fridge and give it a feed.

3. Friday morning prepare your levain as explained above.

4. Friday evening complete stages 1 to 4.

5. Saturday morning complete stages 5 and 6.

I know that all this sounds much more complicated than going to the shops and buying a sourdough loaf but in Gibraltar, we suffer with the terrible affliction of bad bread!  Everything is mass produced and plastic wrapped, frozen bread.  We have few if no legitimate bakeries.  Going through the process of baking your own delicious bread from scratch is not just rewarding; it feels right.  It would be great to see your results.

Chocolate Mousse

Posted: March 25, 2018 in Uncategorized

2 medium eggs

65g dark chocolate

2 tspn sugar

1) melt the chocolate

2) separate the eggs

3) whisk the egg whites and add the sugar

4) add the yolks to the melted chocolate

5) fold the egg whites into chocolate mixture taking care not to lose the air you’ve whisked into the whites

6)pour into teacups, espresso cups, bowls and chill

Robbie Burns Supper

Posted: January 25, 2018 in Uncategorized

Happy Birthday Robbie Burns!!
Here’s a simple 3 course Burns Night Menu for anyone who wants to give it a go. Auld Lang Syne

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On 25th January, we celebrate the life of Robbie Burns.  Many of us have often gone to organised Robbie Burns Nights where the festivities begin with The Selkirk Grace followed by a procession of pipes, tributes and toasts paid to the haggis before a dinner of ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’ followed by speeches; The Immortal Memory and a Toast to the Lassies with a reply to the Laddies.

Generally there is also much revelling in between and a bit more than a wee dram of whiskey (always scotch) must be consumed.

Finally the evening is called to a close by everyone being asked to stand, hold hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.

However, for those of you that want to give this a go at home, without the traditional order of ceremony only need follow my recipe ideas below for a fuss free feast of an evening.  All recipes…

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Sweet Potato Logo

I must admit, I came to the sweet potato party quite late in life. Considering I eat pretty much anything I don’t know why I’ve been so ambivalent towards the sweet potato / boniato.

Perhaps it’s the way I’ve always seen it prepared; baked jacket-potato style with its orange flesh collapsing in on itself and scooped straight out of its blistered skin. And what is it about the skin that takes on irregular shiny-caramel looking spots where the flesh is peeking through? And when mixed in with carrots and parsnips as part of the Sunday roast veggies drizzled in maple syrup, the sweet potato pretty much disintegrates into the buttery maple juices at the bottom of the pan.

I think I may have answered my own question!

At a party years ago, I remember there was a sweet potato and peanut butter filo parcel which all the veggies were enjoying but I couldn’t decide whether i liked it or wondered whether it should be dessert; all it needed was some vanilla ice cream and a dusting of icing sugar and I’d have been happy…I think.

But it was on a trip to LA that my love for the sweet potato was restored. After several food blow outs I fancied something light but not salad-light(!) and came across a plain chicken breast with fries dish on the menu, that as it arrived on the table I thought, wow these American potatoes are really orange! After the first bite I realised they were sweet potato fries, duh! However, they were sweet, salty and acidic all in one bite. My eyes lit up, they were coated in salt, and freshness of lime zest and juice screamed through.

Since sweet potatoes and boniatos (white fleshed Caribbean sweet potatoes) are currently in season what better way to celebrate them than to try and recreate these lime, salty, sweet potato fries which I have shamelessly decided to call, margarita sweet potato fries; the tequila is optional.

Note: cutting them thicker makes for lighter work but they take longer to cook.

Grill some chicken breasts and corn on the cob to make this a great mid-week family supper. But I warn you, the first time I made this I ate the entire tray of sweet potato fries and left everything else!

 

 

 

…sweet potato fries which I have shamelessly decided to call,
margarita sweet potato fries; the tequila is optional…

Margarita Sweet Potato Fries

1st: Preheat the oven to 210°C

2nd: Wash the sweet potatoes to remove any soil or grit they may still have and slice into fries or wedges should you wish. There is no need to peel them.

3rd: Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt flakes, pepper and lime zest.

4th: Cook in the oven for anything from 25 to 40 mins depending on size. Try to turn them once and get good colour on them throughout the cooking process.

5th: Squeeze lime juice over them as they come out of the oven and sprinkle with fresh coriander.

These fries are great with chicken but make a tasty accompaniment to grilled pork loin and white fish; anything that will pair well with zesty lime juice.

Whether you eat them as a side dish or as the main I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.