Friday, 10 January 2014

Boxing Day- The all important Pork Pie

Boxing day for us is all about left overs and cold meats. Cold ham, cold goose, pork pies, cheeses and chutneys. It should be easy and comforting. This year we used the left over brussel sprouts and potatoes to make a delicious bubble and squeak which was certainly a good call.

Left: Rolfes of Walsham hand raised free range pork pie:
Right: Fortnum and Mason (London) Traditional Pork Pie

A good pork pie is so important. I love the British-ness of them- they remind me of the countryside and picnics. I take the same approach to pork pies as I do with sausages and any other processed meats; always invest in a quality one, from a butcher or trustworthy supplier. It's so worth it. To accompany it, I usually go with a bit of hot English mustard or piccalilli to cut through the heaviness.

We always get ours from Rolfes of Walsham- a great butcher and greengrocers in Walsham-le-Willows, Norfolk. It's hand raised, and made with their free range pork. The seasoning (a secret blend) is perfect, and everyone always remarks on how good the pastry is. I would really recommend it if you live anywhere nearby.

This year however, when having a last minute no-present-for-Dad crisis, I ran into Fortnum and Mason before I got on the train home to Norfolk, and bought one of their traditional pork pies for him. I have to say it was a delicious pork pie (as you would probably expect). Lovely golden pastry, tasty filling- I can certainly recommend giving it a try, although I do prefer to support smaller independent businesses where possible.

Monday, 6 January 2014

The Main Event- Goose

This year, it was our turn to cook and host, and we decided on roast goose instead of turkey. We all much prefer the taste, and although it's more expensive, my view is that if you're going to have to spend a lot of money on a big bird anyway, you may as well spend a little bit more and have something you enjoy. 

Serious business- the veg box.

Galloway smoked salmon, soured cream, dill, and caviar blinis to start.

So once we'd worked out cooking arrangements and found a roasting tin big enough to fit the enormous goose, we got cracking. I can't really take credit for this- although it is a family effort on the whole, my mum is the brains behind it all really.

We stuffed our goose with a sausage meat stuffing made with good quality pork sausage meat, onion, mixed herbs, salt & pepper.

To stuff it, you need to loosed the skin first with your hand, then push the stuffing as far up beneath the skin and the meat as possible. It wants to be pushed right up to the neck end of the bird.

Then put a halved onion and halved lemon in the cavity.

Prick the goose skin all over to allow the fat to run out of it. Season all over with salt and pepper, then roast at about 170 degrees. We roasted ours for about 3 hours, but I think most recipes say to cook it for 30 mins per kg. You need to keep basting it, and pour off the excess fat (there will be a lot) as you go- use this for the roast potatoes and parsnips!

Let it rest for a good 30 minutes before serving. Now I'm not saying this is the only way to cook goose, (there are lots of great recipes out there) but it did taste pretty great! It's a delicious meat, and I'd serve it with something a little bit sharp, like red cabbage, to cut through the richness.

What a beauty!

As well as all the standard veg and condiments (roast potatoes, parsnips, brussel sprouts, bread sauce, red cabbage, carrots, gravy), one thing we did have which went down well, was carrots cooked in vegetable stock, and then mashed with a bit of cream, butter, and salt and pepper. A luxurious alternative to straightforward carrots.

Essentials....cooked with bacon.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Christmas time, Sloe Gin and Wine...

So, as we've just had Christmas, what better way to kick of my first blog post than with an insight into how we do Christmas in my family!

This year we've been fairly organised, and back in Autumn, we picked bags and bags of sloes, to make sloe gin. It has apparently been a good year for sloes due to the mild weather, so we picked plenty as you can freeze them for next year too.

They make lovely gifts- use some nice bottles, ribbons, labels etc.

This is the recipe we used:

450g/1lb sloes
225g/8oz caster sugar
1 litre/1¾ pint gin

Firstly, in order to extract the juices from the sloes, you must pierce their skins. A great way to do this is to firstly freeze them in a bag, then when fully frozen, give them a smash with a rolling pin. This will break their skins, without getting juice everywhere, and will also mean you don't have to sit there piercing each individual sloe which can be time consuming.

Then put the prepared sloes in a big seal-able container. Add the sugar and gin and shake well.

You need to store it in a cool, dark place (we put ours in the garage) and shake every day for a week.

After the first week, shake once a week for at least two months.

When you're ready to bottle up, simply strain the sloe gin through muslin into a sterilised bottle. Make sure you get some nice bottles, as it's great to give as present- ebay or amazon is a good place to look, although we found some at our local hardware shop.

Decanting the sloe gin

The final product is fruity and delicious, and the most amazing vibrant colour. It really is very easy, it just takes a bit of planning and organisation. But it's certainly worth it, and it saves you a bit of last minute present panic, knowing you can give people a bottle of this. 

You can serve it as a liqueur after dinner, or add it to a glass of champagne, (apparently called a 'Sloe Royale' or 'Sloe Gin Fizz') to start Christmas off with a bang- it certainly put our family in the party mood pretty quickly!

Enjoying a Sloe Royale overlooking the Scottish hills

We enjoyed ours with some smoked salmon, sour cream and caviar blinis, and smoked salmon on brown bread. Smoked salmon from the Galloway Smokehouse- you won't find any better: