Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Sussex Pond Pudding

Puddings, Great British puddings, are a thing close to my heart. You may or may not have read my past ramblings on our puds, but it is something I can't speak about without excitement. I want to shout each and every pud that we have created from the rooftops and demand that that they return to our menus; jam roly poly, treacle puds and spotted dick to name a few.

British puddings are rarely elegant. No thin crispy wafer like pastry, no towers, and no quenelles. Our puds are tummy fillings monsters that banish any lingering hunger within a few mouthfuls. Usually smothered in delicious creamy custard (hopefully home made; quicker and far more delicious that waiting for a kettle to boil before pouring onto powder), it takes a brave man to face a bowlful immediately after a full Sunday roast.

This is the Sussex Pond Pudding. Not only does this pudding have a brilliant name, it is also delicious and a great conversation point when served at the table. Cut into a Sussex Pond Pudding, and you are met by a whole lemon. This lemon has been steamed in a rich suet crust for hours on end along with some butter and sugar to create a heavenly zest packed sauce, or 'pond'.

Any foreign friends who are reading this who harbour a suspicion of our tummy busting puds, I beg you to give this one a go. It will hopefully indicate that we Brits hide subtle beauty behind a wall of suet pastry. And also that we make the best puddings in the whole wide world...

Sussex Pond Pudding
Serves 4

200g self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
100g shredded suet, normal or vegetarian
Water
150g cold butter, cut into small cubes
150g demerara sugar
1 large lemon, pricked all over with a sharp knife

1 - Butter a medium pudding basin. Place a steamer onto boil then lower to a simmer ready to place the pudding in.
2 - In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, suet and salt, then pour in enough water to form a firm dough when mixed.
3 - Roll out onto a floured surface and roll into a disc just larger than the bowl. Cut out one quarter of the pastry to use as a lid. Line the pudding basin with the dough, wet the seam where it was cut and press to seal. Trim off the top just above the rim of the bowl.
4 - Take the cut off dough and roll until slightly bigger than the bowl. Cut into a rough circle.
5 - Place half of the butter and sugar into the bottom of the dough, place the lemon on top then put the remaining sugar and butter onto the lemon.
6 - Place on the pastry lid, wet the edges then press down the edges of the pastry until well sealed.
7 - Take a large piece of foil and fold in half. Butter one side then form a pleat in the middle by folding over slightly twice. Place this over the bowl then tie securely with a piece of string.
8 - Place into the steamer and steam for 3 and a half hours.
9 - When cooked, turn up onto a plate and serve with custard or cream.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Tomatoless Beef and Squash Curry

I've a friend who has certain food allergies. Not many, but there are some key foods that are a certain no that seem to be commonplace in a lot of food that I cook.

One of them is the tomato. He has to be the only person I know that can't eat this fruit which is evident in everything from soups to casseroles. So one evening during the World Cup it was a challenge to invent something I had never attempted before; a tomatoless curry.

I've a great recipe which uses yoghurt as the main base for the sauce but even that uses tomato paste to colour and flavour. Thinking along the same lines, the curry I ended up with uses a rich paste of onion, garlic, chilli and ginger, lots of Indian spice and tamarind pulp, a sweet and sour fruit available in good Asian stores and one heavily used in Keralan food in south India.

The verdict? For something so simple and easy to make, it was delicious; hot, pungent, spicy and slightly sweet, the tomato wasn't missed one bit and it completely took me by surprise, becoming one of the best curries I've ever made. Try it this weekend, it will put smiles on faces, even ones with certain food allergies.

Tomatoless Beef and Squash Curry

Feeds 4

2 onions, peeled
1 thumb size of ginger, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red chilli, deseeded
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
2 bay leaves
600g stewing beef cut into large chunks
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
200ml tamarind water (use concentrated tamarind paste)
Water
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3. Put the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli into a blender. Blend to a course paste.
2 - Heat up the oil in a flame-proof casserole dish. Add the paste and cook for 5-10 minutes until it begins to colour. Stir in the spices and cook for a further minute.
3 - Stir in the beef and thoroughly combine with the spiced paste. Cook for 5 minutes until the beef browns.
4 - Add the tamarind water. Stir and then stir in more water to just cover. Bring to the boil then place into the oven and cook for 2 hours. Check on the hour to ensure it isn't cooking dry. Add the squash on the hour. The finished product should have a light gravy rather than be watery. Continue to cook if it is too watery.
4 - Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning. Serve with plain boiled basmati rice, fresh mint and Indian breads.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Squid, Ham and Samphire Salad

My lovely Geordie expat friends Iain and Gayle at Orce Serrano Hams recently sent me some of their amazing 16 month aged serrano ham. It is seriously good, everything you would expect from a quality meat that has been lovingly cured by these special people. I might be biased being a fellow Geordie but I beg you to get some ordered. You will not regret it.

Trying to do it justice in a recipe is another matter. Of course, the best way to eat such an amazing meat is to simply slice it off in generous slivers and consume with good bread, oil, olives and a gutsy Spanish red. But I couldn't resist the challenge of pairing it with something.

Thanks to the recent bout of hot weather, squid are being caught in their droves off our North East coast at the moment. And salty samphire, one of my highlights of the summer, is also in abundance.

A simple salt and pepper squid, crispy and hot, tossed with crunchy samphire, salty creamy ham and some sweet roasted peppers made for an excellent plate - a kind of surf and turf but more delicate - and I think it just did that sensational ham some justice. I'll leave that to the owners and your good selves to assess...

Squid, Ham and Samphire Salad

Feeds 2

1 red pepper or a jar of quality roasted peppers
1 medium squid, prepared and sliced into 1cm slices
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper
Sunflower oil
2 good handfuls of samphire
8 slices of Serrano ham

For the dressing
A handful of basil leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 - To prepare the pepper, place directly onto your hob flames and using a pair of tongs, turn until it is black everywhere. Place into a plastic food bag, seal and leave to cool. When cool, remove the skin and seeds then slice into thin slices.
2 - Put the samphire into a bowl and pour over some boiling hot water. Leave for 1 minute, drain and cool under cold water. Drain and set aside.
3 - Fill a medium saucepan halfway with oil. Heat up. To test when it is ready, drop a piece of bread in. If it turns golden brown within 1 minute it is ready.
4 - Toss the squid in the flours, salt and pepper. Carefully lower into the oil and cook for no more than 1 minute when it will turn slightly golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
5 - Make a dressing by bashing up the basil in a pestle and mortar, stirring in the lemon juice and oil and seasoning.
6 - To plate up, arrange the samphire, roast peppers and squid on a plate then drizzle over a little of the basil oil.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Rhubarb and Orange Cake

The rhubarb season is nearing it's end now and this year we have had more than our fair share from the allotment crop.

As our allotment had invented a new word for neglect before we got our hands on it, we thought that the existing plant would benefit from a few days in the dark to force new shoots. We ended up creating a monster, a rather delicious one at that.

Stems have been given away to eager family members week after week and still we have a drawer full in the freezer for the coming months. Stewed rhubarb for our morning cereal is always there and crumbles are a certainty each Sunday. It has been a happy year for our rhubarb.

This cake partners the sharp rhubarb with orange, an excellent pairing of flavours. Topped onto an almond and polenta based sponge, it is excellent served warm as a dessert with double cream or room temperature with a strong cup of tea. Either way, you are in for a treat.


Rhubarb and Orange Cake

200g butter
150g sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs
100g ground almonds
100g polenta
100g self raising flour
200g rhubarb puree, made by cutting the stems up, washing, putting into a pan with 75g sugar and simmering until soft.
Zest and juice or 1 orange

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla essence and then stir in the eggs one by one.
3 - Fold in the almonds and polenta. Sieve in the flour and fold in along with the orange zest and juice and 2 tbsp of the rhubarb puree until you have a soft batter.
4 - Pour into a lined cake tin with a removable base. Top with the remaining rhubarb puree. Bake on the centre shelf for 50-60 minutes until golden brown. If it starts to catch too soon, cover loosely with baking paper.
5 - Rest and allow to cool.