Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sloe gin summer puddings

Nothing says summer like a sharp-and-sweet fruit pudding so these are something of a last hurrah for the Indian summer that graced our fair city last week, fading so quickly now as the days get shorter. Someone (not me) has switched on the heating in our house, and I have finally been forced to rootle out my leather gloves for that first icy hour on the way to work. 

I made these puds with the last of the blackberries from the back garden, now wilting on the branch and only good for the birds. They’re very forgiving, happy to have pretty much any mix of red berries thrown in according to taste, as long as there’s a good heft of raspberries and sharp blackcurrants.  A certain level of acidity is needed to stop the mixture from becoming cloying, and to act as a foil to the indulgent cream. Cook it while you can, and say goodbye to the summer.  

Makes 6
I know a large pudding is more traditional but I just couldn't resist these tiny versions, they're no extra bother to make and turn out nicely on a plate.

800g mixed berries and currants (I used 200g strawberries, 200g raspberries, 150g blackcurrants, 100g blackberries, 150g redcurrants)
8 slices of fresh white bread, no thicker than 8-10mm
3 tbsp sloe gin and 1 tbsp orange juice or water
40g sugar (3 tbsp)
1 tsp vegetable oil
a small jug of thick cream to serve
Six 8x5cm individual pudding tins

1) Strip the redcurrants and blackcurrants from their stems and place in a saucepan with the rest of the fruit, sugar and sloe gin. Pop on a lid and bring the fruit up to a gentle simmer. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, until the fruit has released its juice but still has some shape. Separate the fruit from the juice using a sieve, and set aside to cool.

2) Use the oil to rub inside each pudding mould - it helps the puddings release later. Cut the crusts from the bread and cut out a round to fit in the bottom of each tin. Soak each piece in the juice and press into the pudding tin. Next build up the sides by cutting strips of bread to line the tin, again soaking each one in juice before pressing into the tin. Once all the tins are completely lined, spoon in the fruit mixture, then seal each pudding with a juice-soaked round to close it.

3) Wrap each pudding in a thorough sheet of cling film, then weight each one down (a small tin can/jam jar will do) to help compress the filling. Chill for at least a few hours, or preferably overnight, before serving. If you find the puddings are reluctant to release from their tins, run a knife around the rim first. Serve with indecent lashings of cream.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Salted cod scotch eggs with smoked paprika and fennel

Apologies for the lengthy silence, I've been on holiday for the last couple of weeks. I did think about my poor blog languishing in the shadows but frankly I was just having too much fun to bother with the boring old interweb.

This was my first attempt at staycationing - instead of venturing abroad, we decided to explore all the wonders on offer pretty much on our doorstep in London. There's an awe inspiring amount to do in our wonderful capital, and I finally got to tick off a few things from my mental list of London-to-dos.

Near the top of the list was taking advantage of the decent weather; a few hours of daily sun for a couple of weeks is a rare commodity right now. And sun means one thing to me - picnics. I love a good spread out in the open air. We ate these on a row boat, bobbing around next to the picturesque bridges on the Thames at Richmond. Fresh air really does make food taste better.

Makes 10
350g boneless, skinless salted cod
2 bay leaves
5 peppercorns
12 medium eggs
200g undyed smoked haddock
2 tbsp olive oil
300g arborio rice
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp black pepper
1½ tsp whole fennel seeds
1 litre weak vegetable stock
2½ cups panko breadcrumbs
600ml vegetable oil
1) 24 hours before, submerge the salted cod in cold water, changing the water once during the day. The next day, put two bay leaves and five black peppercorns in a pan with a litre of boiling water, and add the cod. Reduce to a simmer and very gently cook for 5 minutes, or until just starting to flake apart. Drain and remove the bay leaves and peppercorns, leave to cool, and then flake into small pieces.
2) Place 10 of the eggs in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Run under cold water to stop them cooking, then carefully peel them and set aside. Grill the haddock under a medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until tender and just cooked through. Leave to cool, and then flake into small pieces.
3) Next heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion. Cook on a low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes, then add the butter, rice, and garlic. Continue cooking for another 2 minutes, then add the paprika, pepper, cayenne and fennel and half of the stock. Allow to simmer until the stock has been absorbed, stirring occasionally, then add the other half of the stock and continue to cook until it has absorbed all the liquid. When the rice is cooked through, the mixture should be very thick. Stir through the cod and haddock, check if the mixture needs any salt, then divide into 10 blobs.
4) Make a 20x20cm piece of triple thickness clingfilm, then put a blob in the middle of the clingfilm. Flatten the blob slightly, and make a dent in the centre with a spoon, then place an egg in the dent. Use the clingfilm to shape the rice around the egg until nice and round. Repeat with the other eggs.
5) Whisk the remaining eggs in a small bowl, and roll each rice ball first in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Make sure each one is really well covered. Dip again into the egg, then breadcrumbs, to double coat. Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan to 190c. Cook the eggs one or two at a time for about 3-4 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and repeat with the other eggs.
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