In the last two posts we looked at two different ways to make a competent chicken stock. But have you ever tried to make a vegetarian stock? You might be surprised by the results. Here’s how to make a very simple tomato consommé:
Take a batch of ripe tomatoes, chop them up very roughly and marinade them in the ‘fridge with a handful of sea-salt. Several hours should do the trick. Take them out of the ‘fridge and 'half-crush' them up in your Magimix, using a few jabs of the pulse button. The salty tomato pulp is placed in a muslin-lined sieve and placed over a large bowl, and the whole shooting match put back into the ‘fridge to drip over-night.
In the morning you’ll have a bowlful of clear tomato ‘water’, with the most delicate flavour. You might serve this, say, in small cups (chilled over ice, with a sprig of basil) as a trendy amuse-bouche for a summer dinner party. You could, of course, also add extra flavourings at the dripping stage- aromatics such as rosemary, thyme, basil, shallots or garlic might work well. Your friends will be amazed, delighted and amused.
My researches into vegetable stock-making reminded me that I had a copy of Simon Hopkinson’s The Vegetarian Option languishing at the back of the book shelf. Massive fan of Mr H, and along with Richard Olney, currently one of my all-time favourite food writers. I should use The Vegetarian Option more often as it’s packed full of ideas- encouraging stylish ways with the vegetable. There should be so much more to vegetable cooking than the dreaded pasta and lentil bake.
There’s a brilliant recipe for a vegetarian bouillon which Simon Hopkinson discovered at L’Espérance restaurant in Saint-Père-sous-Vézelay:
You take 100g carrots, 100g leeks, 100g celery, 100g white button mushrooms and 250g white onion (peeled and chopped and the mushrooms thinly sliced) and mix them up in a large bowl. Get hold of three clean Parfait preserving jars and fill each up half-way with the vegetable mixture. Place a garlic clove, bayleaf, chopped parsley sprigs and a few black peppercorns into each jar and top up with the remaining vegetables. In goes a dash of good sea-salt and water, so that it stops about 2cm from the top of the glass jar. The jars are then sealed and placed in a deep pan of cold water until the water almost reaches the lids.
You are going to cook the jars a bit like the way you might cook a traditional Christmas Pudding. The water is brought to a very gentle simmer and the pan left (with the lid on) for two hours, topping up the level with boiling water from the kettle when you think it needs it. To prevent the jars from shattering, you will need to use either a diffuser or a folded piece of thick cardboard placed directly underneath each jar in the pan.
The bouillon is cooled and then strained through a muslin-lined sieve in the normal way. Thinking about it, this is a traditional cooking technique as used in Olde England- jugged peas and jugged hare immediately springs to mind.
The Bouillon can be served ‘ice-cold’ with a garnish of diced ‘jewel-like’ vegetables floating on the top. Simple, satisfying- and genuinely elegant. If you’re clever I expect you can think up alternative ways of using it- perhaps as an interesting re-interpretation of a Bloody Mary, with vodka and Tabasco? Either way, the bouillon can be frozen and used to pep up soups, stews and sauces.
You will remember, Dear Reader, that in the last post, we made- or attempted to make- a white chicken stock. The response was good, and you so obviously enjoyed it that I thought I would carry on with the stock theme: to create a little series of posts on stock making, consommés, glazes, aspics, demi-glaces and all that jazz. Before I carry on with ‘how to make a brown stock’, I thought I should let you into ‘what wrong with my last stock attempt’.
I let it boil. Yep, I didn’t follow my own instructions. That pesky telephone rang (one of those dodgy insurance claim firms) and it was enough to distract me for a few tiresome minutes. When I got back to the pan, it was at a boil, and the stock had gone cloudy. Don’t do this. All it needs is thirty seconds or so, and your clear stock becomes a thing of the past. Secondly, leave the carcass alone. Don’t do what I did, and try and break it up, or stir it about. There’s always someone (i.e.me) who wants to meddle. Don’t touch it, and you’ll get a clear stock. And finally, it might be a good plan to ladle it from the pan when it’s ready, rather than pour it straight into the colander. There’s a few cheffy tips for you.
So on to brown stock. Or more precisely, a brown chicken stock. Julia Child gives a simple recipe in her exemplary Mastering the Art of French Cooking:
You take bits of chicken "the neck, gizzard, heart and scraps” (I would have thought those bits and pieces you get in little bags inside supermarket chickens would be just fine), chop them up and brown them in a heavy frying pan, in oil, with a sliced onion and carrot. Mrs Child recommends that you brown them on the top of the stove, rather than in the oven, as she worries that the chicken might burn- and she’s probably right.
You pour out the ‘browning fat’ and add ¾ pint of white chicken stock (which we made in the last post), two parsley sprigs, some thyme and a bayleaf, and enough water to cover the chicken by ½ inch.
Simmer (remember, ‘just a bubble or two of motion at the surface'), partially covered for 1½ hours, skimming as before. Strain and de-grease.
That’s one way of doing it. The other way (courtesy of Robuchon) is to brown the carcass of a chicken in a pre-heated oven (400F/200C) for fifteen to thirty minutes, stirring from time to time with a big wooden spoon. You then add a coarsley chopped carrot, a peeled and coarsely chopped onion, a chunk of celery stalk and 100g mushrooms to the roasting pan, mix it well and return to the oven for ten minutes to brown the vegetables. The chicken bones and vegetables are removed from the pan and put into a large stockpot, which is then covered with cold water, and a bouquet garni, herbs (four sprigs of chervil, a sprig of tarragon) and a clove of garlic added as you would with a standard white stock.
Unlike Richard Olney (two hours), both Rubuchon and Julia Child recommend that you cook your stock for at least four hours (‘never allowing the liquid to roil and boil. It should just shiver’.) And one final word for now. Can you make a chicken stock from the left-overs? Yes, you can. Obviously it won’t be as flavoursome as a stock made from a whole, uncooked chicken, but if you simmer it at a low heat for long enough, you’ll get enough gelatine out of the bones to form a reasonable jelly.
Good cooking, I’ve come to learn, is very much a matter of mastering simple techniques. It’s one of the reasons I’m so keen on Richard Olney’s brilliant Time Life Cookery Series. Stock making is a case in point; in my salad days I would chuck a few chicken bones, a carrot or two, onion and a sprig of parsley into a large pot of water and call it ’stock’. The finished brew (cooked on a rolling simmer for about half an hour) was okay-ish; Up to a Point Lord Copper, but lacked that certain something. Far too cloudy for a start, and slightly greasy too. Probably better than one of those over-salty factory produced stock cubes you buy in the supermarket, but definitely not one of Mr Aitch’s better efforts. Cinq Points. So back to the drawing board I went.
First stop was that culinary bible, the Larousse Gastronomique. It breaks the different types of stock down into four: White Stock, Brown Stock, Fish Stock and Vegetable Stock. To quote:
White stock is used as liquid in white sauces and stews and for poached poultry. Brown stock is used as a liquid in brown sauces, for braising large cuts of meat and for dark stews. Fish stock is used in the preparation of special fish sauces, such as Normandie sauce, a white wine sauce or a thin white sauce to be served with fish.
Richard Olney gives a recipe for a simple chicken (ie white) stock in his excellent Good Cook’s Encyclopedia:
You place a chicken carcass into a large pot of cold water and bring it very slowly to a near boil (this might take up to an hour). Foamy scum will appear on the surface as albuminous proteins in the meat are drawn out and float to the top.
Carefully remove the scum with a ladle. Now if you allow it to boil, the turbulance, apparently, prevents the scum forming on the surface so just before the liquid starts to boil add a dash of cold water. This will bring the the temperature down, to just below the boiling point and will allow more scum to rise.
When you’ve removed all the scum and white froth, you should have a clear-ish liquid. Now is the time to add the vegetables: carrots, onions (one stuck with three cloves), a whole unpeeled head of garlic and a bouquet garni (bayleaf, thyme and fresh parsley tied in with a piece of leek and a celery stalk).
And now is the time to add salt. No pepper, notice. Richard Olney adds a relatively small amount of sea salt to the mix, as the salty taste will concentrate as the stock reduces.
Bring the stock back to the near-boil, skimming as before. You’re looking for a ‘near simmer’, so that the surface, as Richard Olney rather poetically puts it "is rippled only by a continuous gentle murmer of bubbles”. Cook for two hours, skimming off any surface fat from time to time.
The stock is then strained off through a colander, and then strained again through a muslin cloth.
The final stage is a cinch. Put the stock into the ‘fridge and leave it there for eight to twelve hours. You’ll end up with a lovely, very professional looking light brown jelly, with a layer of white fat on the top. Scrape this off with a spoon, and dab away the last particles of fat with a cloth. Finis.
And that’s how to make a proper, authentic, bona-fide white chicken stock. Remember- add cold water to stop it boiling, don’t add the vegetables at the beginning, go easy on the salt, and leave the finished stock in the ‘fridge for several hours. And before I forget, there’s another technique I read about in Robuchon, which funnily enough Olney doesn’t mention. When you’re bringing the stock to a near boil, place the pan to the side of the heat and let the scum form to the side of the pan. Oh, and take an afternoon off work. If you’re interested I might cover making a brown stock in a subsequent post. But that’s for another day.
Technorati Tags: chicken stock recipe, french chicken stock recipe, how to make a professional stock, how to make a proper stock, how to make authentic stock, kitchen stock, larousse gastronomic, richard olney stock recipe, richard olney time life series, stock making techniques, white stock recipe
| | | | |
One of my favourite books is David Ogilvy’s entertaining autobiography Confessions of an Advertising Man. Ogilvy was a maverick advertising legend, the genius behind “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt”, the splendidly urbane "Commander Schweppes” (in reality Cdr. Ed Whitehead RN (Rtd), president of Schweppes USA) and the pithy advertising slogan: “at 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in a brand new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”.
Before Madison Avenue, Ogilvy had enjoyed a varied career as a hotel chef, Gallup researcher, door-to-door Aga salesman and Pennyslvanian farmer. Sent down from Christchurch, Oxford without a degree, Ogilvy became a cook- I hesitate to use the word chef- at the Hotel Majestic, Paris.
Apparently the brigade’s favourite after-work dish was this variation on the French working man’s classic, Ouefs au Beurre Noir. It’s one of the recipes listed in the back of his book.
It more usually includes vinegar, rather than Worcester Sauce and lemon juice, and you might want to substitute the latter two with say, tarragon vinegar. Ogilvy also suggests the use of coriander, but I would have thought that chopped flat-leaf parsley might work better:
Eggs in Black Butter (4 People)
2 tablespoons butter
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcester Sauce
4 thin slices of bread
Chopped fresh coriander (optional)
Melt the butter in a small frying pan and heat until it goes black. Add the Worcester Sauce, the capers and a squeeze of lemon juice. Fry the eggs very gently in this sauce, basting frequently. When cooked, trim into rounds with a pastry cutter. Drain. Fry bread in the sauce. Transfer the cooked bread to a warm plate and place the egg on top. Pour remaining sauce around the egg. Decorate with fresh chopped coriander.
The Duke de Richleau and Rex Van Ryn had gone into dinner at eight o’clock but coffee was not served till after ten.
Dennis Wheatley, “The Devil Rides Out”, 1934
We’re in Courvoisier territory again. Serve up a box of After Eight Chocolate Mint Wafers to your dinner party guests, and you will be instantly transported into the world of the sophisticated Society Hostess: elegant country house parties, stuccoed London town houses, a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in Dove Grey, Chinese antiques and private chefs; a box at Covent Garden. Or that, at least, is how the 1960’s adman envisaged it.
“Every woman loves temptation, that’s the secret of After Eight” purrs Mrs Roy Boulting, wife of the producer of “I’m All Right Jack”. Did she really serve up After Eights to her fashionable guests? Somehow I suspect not. But then did Patricia Neal really placate her mercurial husband, Roald Dahl, with a cup of lover-ly Maxwell House- “Good to the Last Drop”?
"The fascinating history of the mint has been collated by Nestle's archive curator Alex Hutchinson who recently rediscovered the old ads and publicity shots." You can read more about it here.
The Louis XV style clock on the After Eights box, if you ever wondered, used to grace the board room of Rowntree’s, the famous York chocolate manufacturer, and according to The Daily Mail disappeared under mysterious circumstances in the 1980’s. I would love to know where it is now.
Ahoy there Lovebirds! It exists! A genuine Italian cookery book written by- cue trumpet fanfare- one Sophia Loren. In the Kitchen with Love was first published in 1971 by Doubleday (or at least the American edition, translated from the Italian original):
To open this book is to join Miss Loren in her own kitchen, where she talks about the art of preparing, serving and enjoying fine food. With customary spontaneity, she relates intimate details pertinent to the background of her favorite dishes...
Suprisingly, it’s actually quite good: I had automatically assumed that it had been ghost-written and then changed my mind on a first reading; that was until I came across a technicolour plate showing "Miss Loren with her cook, Livia, preparing tomato sauce”, and then you do begin to wonder who the true author was...
It reminds me enormously of one of my all-time favourite feel-good films, How To Murder Your Wife, and if you’ve seen that wunderwerk you’ll know what I’m getting at. Except that it stars the devastatingly beautiful Virna Lisi. Bachelor Jack Lemmon marries her during a drunken stag night (she comes out of a cake), and then plots her murder. Why? Because she lovingly over-feeds him with delicious- if fattening- provincial Italian home cooked food. Okay, Virna comes with a Wagnerian mother-in-law in tow and a tiresome, yappy little lap dog, but even so, it still has to be one of the most barmy, bonkers, crazy, ridiculous, implausible and bizarre motives for murder ever devised on celluloid.
Anyway, here’s Sophia Loren’s recipe for Gnocchi Alla Romana:
These gnocchi have a more delicate flavor than the others, as will be quickly seen from the ingredients.
For six people melt 3 tablespoons of butter in 1 quart of milk over a low flame, then increase the heat, and when the milk comes to the boil, pour in 1 cup of semolina, sirring it the entire time, when the mixture thickens and threatens to solidify, pour in another dash of milk; stir again, turn out the fire, add 2/3 cup of grated Parmesan, two egg yolks, without ever ceasing to stir.
When you see that the mixture, now very hot, has a uniform consistency, pour it out onto the marble top of the kitchen table, which you have previously dampened with cold water; shape it into a flat “cake”, about a quarter of an inch high, and leave to cool. Then with the rim of a glass cut the pasta into circlet: these of course are the gnocchi.
To cook them greasproof a fireproof dish and dust it with breadcrumbs; lay in it the gnocchi in tight rows wach with its edge resting on the next one, cover with melted butter and grated Parmesan, add another layer of gnocchi, then more butter and Parmesan; and bake uncovered in a moderate oven for one hour.
Technorati Tags: february 14 food, how to murder your wife, italian cookbook, italian food, italian recipes, italian regional cookery, italian retro food, sophia loren cookbook, valentine food, valentines day cookery book, valentine’s day recipe, virna lisi
| | | | |
It’s a cheat, I know, but it’s a quality cheat at that. It’s Cox’s Original Bloody Mary Spicer. I’ve been in and out of bed over the last few days with a boring February sniffle and living off over-spiced Bloody Marys, which I’m really beginning to appreciate for their anesthetical qualities. Usually I would mix a Bloody Mary to my own recipe (which as you will remember involves lemon juice, sherry and celery salt) but for the time being, a generous dash of Cox’s Original to the ubiquitous tomato juice has come in just dandy.
I couldn’t find much about the company which makes it, apart from the fact that it seems to be a small, privately-owned concern based in Nottingham. Bizarrely in this day and age they don’t seem to have a website, although they have their own page on the dreaded Facebook.
The first thing I like is its punchy flavour. A few drops of the stuff into the old tomato juice is going to be just the ticket. And for once, that’s enough. This is the antithesis of those wishy-washy boil in the bag ‘curries’, which have about as much spice as a randy fish finger on heat. The label on the bottle tells me that it’s made from tamarind, chilli peppers, horseradish, molasses, celery seeds, ginger and xanthan gum. You’ll also end up with chunky bits of black pepper floating around in your cocktail- which, in my opinion, could be a good thing.
Now you see her, now you don't: Mary Queen of Scots, or Mary Tudor?
The second thing I like- no love- about Cox’s Original is the quirky Neo-Victorian packaging. It hasn’t been around on the supermarket shelves for that long, so I happen to have kept a bottle dating back to the time when it first came out. The label shows Bloody Queen Mary- 16th century ruff and all- clutching a large glass of the red stuff. Except that it ain’t Bloody Mary. Someone’s made a boob. It’s Mary Queen of Scots!
Antonis Mor, Queen Mary, 1554.
So to keep the pedants at bay, they’ve now done a nifty hatchet job (courtesy of photoshop) to the label, and on later bottles the correct Queen’s head, presumably lifted from the Antonis Mor portrait, has been cut out and plonked slightly awkwardly on to the body. It’s much better now. It’s a mean face for a mean cocktail.
I bought The Name-Dropper's Cookbook (or to be pedantic, Hugh's Who: The Name-Dropper's Cookbook) second-hand, from one of those splendid old-fashioned bookshops in Burnham Market, Norfolk. It's been languishing on the shelf for a year or so, unread, and I've only just taken it down and started to use it. It's a terrific book.
Thinking about it, I remember hearing the old charmer on a local Oxfordshire radio station (Hugh left this planet in 2009) reminiscing with some DJ about his unusual life, famous friends, exotic travels and love of cooking.
As his obituary in The Independent says:
Hugh Geoffrey Millais, who has died at the age of 80, falls into the category of artistic dabbler and business adventurer who, when he wished to, could bring an immense presence to those films in which he appeared.
And in The Daily Telegraph:
Hugh Millais, who has died aged 79, wafted genially through life- sailing around the caribbean in his own yacht as a Calypso singer; starting an ambitious house building scheme in Spain, and appearing in two of Robert Altman's films - without ever having to suffer the indignity of full-time employment.
And in The Guardian:
Hugh Millais, who has died aged 79, was a brilliant sailor, an actor, a wonderful cook, a storyteller extraordinaire and a singer who could invent calypsos of sublime silliness. He also had a natural eye for design. But the greatest of his talents was a gift for life.
His star performance was as "Mad Dog Butler" in Robert Altman's western, McCabe & Mrs Miller, in which he plays a macho fur-coated gunslinger turned bounty hunter. For some bizarre reason, this film has escaped my radar (God knows how, as I love westerns), so I had a quick look at a video clip on YouTube (If you're a subscriber, I think you will need to log into The Greasy Spoon proper to see it):
Hugh puts in a terrific act; Altman told him to keep his English drawl and this adds to the panache. He also featured as a turtle-necked letch in Altman's Images, a shady camel-coated financier in The Dogs of War and a goaty old squire in the dreadful Michael Winner's hilarious re-make of The Wicked Lady.
He was also a keen amateur cook of the Old School. Robert Altman said "As an actor he is an excellent cook, as a cook he is an excellent actor", and sure enough the recipes in The Name Dropper's Cookbook are actually rather good. Interspersed with the amusing- and highly readable- yarns featuring the likes of Ernest Hemingway (inevitably they run with the bulls), Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Wolf Mankowitz, David Niven and Ava Gardener are a hundred or so recipes, of which, two have been tried so far.
And by golly, they're excellent. The Choufleur au Gratin was, essentially, steamed caulifower florets served with Hollandaise Sauce and grilled Parmesan cheese, but if you follow his instructions you will end up with a classic dish, perfectly cooked. He's keen on relatively simple Spanish, French and Italian classics; so you have: Pollo al Ajillo (chicken with garlic and chili), Cassoulet de Toulouse (baked pork, sausage, preserved goose and beans), Risotto al Tartufo (truffle risotto). All these sound like tried-and-tested favourites, and I have no doubt that they are delicious. We shall find out.
In later life, Hugh Millais enjoyed a career as an interior designer in partnership with his second wife, Anne Sheffield. I love his Oxfordshire kitchen with its huge seventeenth century iron fireback, Aga and huge copper pots and pans. Here, at the stove, I am sure many tales were told, stories woven and recipes perfected.
I used to pretend that I liked January. Actually, I don't. It's a bleak, miserable, Cromwellian month, enlivened by never-ending grey skies and not much to look forward to, apart from bills and the promise of February- which says it all.
So why this sudden trend to go on the wagon over January? Under some strange influence we both fell for this, until about three days ago, when poor Mrs Aitch staggered back from the Blacking Factory, dead-tired and chilled to the bone by the London damp, to find me brandishing a huge gin.
I have no regrets. Life is too short. Recently, I've been reading all sorts of books on Churchill for my recent posts on my sister blog on the antiques website. Which brings to mind a Churchillian quote:
My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.
Not that I want to end up like another hero, Orson Welles. But I couldn't resist posting that infamous out-take: "There is a Californian Champagne by Paul Masson..." I like the pretty poker face girl on the left, trying not to laugh.
(As it's a link to a YouTube video, subscribers will have to log in to the website proper to see it: www.lukehoney.typepad.com)
Very taken by the recent Bunny Mellon sale at Sotheby's: Oak Spring was her understated- and relatively modest- Virginian 50's farmhouse. Wonderful collections of eighteenth century English porcelain, country furniture, equestrian mezzotints, antique silver, and a stunning museum of historic antiquarian gardening books in the grounds.
Considering the Mellons are one of the richest families in America, the whole shooting match seems to be the antithesis of banker's modernist bling (yawn) and the horror of today's ghastly celebrity culture. Until you remember that within the estate there was, I gather, a private airport, with a jet sitting on the runway, on stand-by. Not that I disapprove, God forbid; four cheers for Marie Antoinette and the Petit Trianon.
And then there was Lot 662, described by Sotheby's in that lovely dead-pan manner as:
" A Group of Cookbooks and Books on Entertaining including Farley, Art of Cookery; A W Kidner, Aspagarus ; Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking; The Alice B Toklas Cookbook, Jean Krofsky, The Gardener's Cookbook; and other titles. Approximately 200 volumes".
Now one of my quirky little hobbies is looking at other people's bookshelves. Sometimes I even take snapshots on my iphone. Sad.
I have no idea if Bunny actually cooked herself. I assume that she probably did. As did her private chef. French cookery of the old school seems to have been her thing. They look well thumbed too.
I-Spy with my little eye something beginning with M: Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a terrific book and if you were only going to have just one cookery book, this could very well be the one. The book was published in two volumes, the original hardback edition is the one to get:
The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook is another one which I may well cover in a future post:
Technorati Tags: alice toklas cookery book, Bunny Mellon auction, Bunny Mellon food, Bunny Mellon kitchen, Bunny Mellon sale, Bunny Mellon Sotheby’s, Rachel Mellon Sotheby’s, retro french cookery books
| | | | |
Rex Whistler (1905-1944): Father Christmas, 1939
Wishing all my loyal readers a very Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year. A massive thank you to all those who have taken the time to leave comments and send personal emails over the last few years.
It's goose for us tomorrow- rather than turkey, and I'm trying to think up ways of cooking those pesky brussel sprouts. About to nip off to the supermarket to buy a bottle of Riesling à l' Alsace. Undercooking them with bacon, shallots and garlic, and then braising them in the wine could be a good way to go.
By the way, until recently, I hadn't really cottoned on to quite how long I have been writing The Greasy Spoon. Checking my records, I see that my very first post was back in the Autumn of 2007. Lea & Perrins was the subject! In those days, blogging hadn't really taken off and people I met at cocktail parties would give me a strange look when I admitted to them that this is what I did in my spare time. How things have changed in the last eight years. Fascinated to discover what else is store for us over the next decade.
The Spoon has now- in its own small way- become a rather endearing habit, and it would feel strange indeed if it wasn't around. So long may it continue, and I look forward to exploring new ideas with you over the course of 2016. Happy Christmas!
Philip Reicherstorfer: Restaurant Evangelist
We dropped by Counter, to see how the building work was getting on. Readers of The Greasy Spoon will remember my recent post: Counter is- or will be- a new restaurant and brasserie for Vauxhall, the brainchild of enterprising restaurateur, Philip Reicherstorfer- or should I say 'restaurant evangelist' (?) as the whole flippin' scale of the project is now becoming apparent.
The restaurant fills a massive space, the entire length of an old railway archway (and longer than the height of Nelson's Column) with a "monastic" archway in glass at one end, looking on to what is likely to become (if Lambeth Council succeeds in demolishing the hideous bus station) a new town square for Vauxhall:
Philip knows exactly what he's doing, and the bones of the restaurant are now taking shape: a bar the Vauxhall end, kitchen in the middle, and further space at the back, not unlike the old concept of the Saloon and Public Bar in a Victorian pub.
Mrs Aitch props up the bar to be...
Philip in action...
I gather that a chef has been hired- or is about to be hired- and the menu will inspired by American and French brasserie classics. At the moment, it all rather reminds me of one of those immaculate ocean liners, the RMS Queen Mary or Aquitania, with Philip very much at the helm and in command of every detail; the shiny, metallic ventilation pipes are enormous and, I think, are going to be left on view. Watch this space.
Technorati Tags: counter brasserie vauxhall, Counter vauxhall, food vauxhall, london restaurant openings, new london restaurants, nine elms regeneration, nine elms restaurant, philip recherstorfer, restaurant vauxhall, vauxhall regeneration
| | | | |
Terrific second-hand find for Christmas. It's Victorian Cups and Punches and Other Concoctions, published by Cassell in 1974. I like Cassell's cookery books from this period. Neat little numbers in hardback, charming Victorian engravings, thickish paper and lovely old-fashioned typography. I bought this for a trifling two pounds.
All sorts of goodies in this book: punches, cordials, cups, bishops, mulls, shrubs, cardinals, bishops, caudles, possetts, nightcaps and usquebachs. Some recipes, picked at random:
West Indian Sangaree
Crush four ounces of loaf sugar to powder, and pour upon it a large wine-glassful of lime-juice. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then add a bottle of madeira, half a pint of pure French brandy, and two pints of cold spring water. Grate the fourth part of a small nutmeg over the sangaree, put a large lump of ice into it, and serve. Sponge cake or savoy biscuit is generally serverd with sangaree.
Put half a pint of ale, a clove, a little whole ginger, a piece of butter the size of a marble, and tea-spoonful of sugar, into a saucepan, and bring it to boiling point. Beat two eggs with a table-spoonful of cold ale, and pour the boiling ale into them, and into a large jug. Pass the whole from one jug into another for some minutes, and at a good height. Return it to the saucepan and heat it again, but do not allow it to boil. Time, a quarter of an hour. Probable cost 6d. Sufficient for one person.
Bishop Oxford Nightcap
Take two drachms each of cloves, mace, ginger, cinnamon and allspice, boil them for thirty minutes in half a pint of water, and strain. Put part of a bottle of port in a saucepan over the fire, add the spiced infusion and a roasted lemon stuck with six cloves. Take four ounces of sugar in lumps and grate over the outer rind of a small lemon, place them in a punch-bowl, and add the juice of a lemon, pour in the hot wine etc., then the remainder of the bottle of port, and serve. A Seville orange may be roasted instead of a lemon.
Technorati Tags: british christmas cocktails, british christmas drinks, christmas cookery books, christmas food, Christmas punches, victorian christmas cocktails, victorian christmas drinks, victorian mulled wine
| | | | |
Go on, have a look at your bookshelves. How many cookery books have you got on Belgian cuisine? None? Doesn't surprise me one iota; but thinking about it, isn't this a bit strange when Belgium "boasts more three-star restaurants per capita than any other nation, including France"?
I can't say I know Belgium especially well, but I found it interesting. A few years ago, before the joy that was marriage to Mrs Aitch, there was the most marvellous holiday- perhaps the best holiday I have ever had- driving through the Graveyard of Europe: destination Heidelberg via Alsace-Lorraine.
With hindsight 'driving to Germany' might seem a trifle eccentric (most Brits head off to the Dordogne, Brittany or the Loire), but the adventures along the way certainly didn't let us down: there was an especially amusing dinner party at a crumbling château in the remote, bleak and dusty werewolf country of Lorraine, which included amongst the guests (bizarrely, and by occult coincidence) someone I had worked with years before at Bonhams Chelsea, now in the process of some form of elopement (girl plus van); and a Dutch couple of tangerine hue and late middle age, both in polyester turquoise jumpsuits, on their way back to Eindhoven from their villa on the Côte d'Azur. This they liked to remind us of at every possible moment. The main focus of the conversation (pigeon Franglais and sign language) seemed to focus on the strange fact that we were touring Lorraine in the first place, a region, apparently devoid of tourism. This was met with miscomprehension and utter disbelief.
Anyway, to get back to Perfidious Albion we had to drive through Belgium, which included- oh great excitement on my part- a stop off at the battlefield of Waterloo, and the châteaux of La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont. Those of us who spent a large proportion of our childhoods toiling over the Airfix kit will remember them well.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking there's nothing more to Belgium than decent dark chocolate, moules, fries, mayonnaise, trappist monks, beer and Tin-Tin; as the place as some sort of a mini-France, and of course, this is completely wrong. Once you cross the Belgian border, things change; the driving is insane for starters and I gather, possibly as a consequence of nineteen months of non-Government, weeds grow in prolifiation through the broken concrete of the autoroutes. I gather that Belgium didn't introduce a driving test until 1960 and so the noble tradition of free-style driving continues: the roads are populated with meandering vans driven by long-haired Goths.
But the food there is noticeably very good indeed, and even your bog-standard local restaurant will sell you a well-presented dish, cooked to a high standard and with care. The food is Flemish with a Gallic twist, or indeed, Gallic with a Flemish Twist. Thow in some Nordic influences for good measure, and you're beginning to get an idea of what Belgian cuisine is all about. Which brings me to Ruth Van Waerebeek's The Taste of Belgium, first published in America in 1996, and very recently re-published in a handsome hardback edition by Grub Street with evocative photographs by Regula Ysewijn.
It's a brilliant new addition to the cookery bookshelves, plugging that worrying gap; and so we have: Sweet-and Sour Cucumbers with Chives, Bay Scallops on a Bed of Belgian Endives, Fish Stew from the North Sea, Mussels with Snail Butter, Waterzooi of Chicken, Braised Partridge with Cabbage & Abbey Beer, Gratin of Brussells Sprouts, Chocolate Mousse, and- of course- the definitive recipe for authentic Belgian fries. By now, you will have got the drift: lots of Northern comfort stuff; we're in home-cooking territory here, and the receipes are relatively easy to make, too.
Having said that I made the Waterzooi of Chicken, which is a soupy stew of fish or chicken bound in a creamy stock, thickened with egg. I didn't read the recipe properly and ended up over-cooking the chicken to a stringy mess. Completely my fault. If I had made it as Ruth Van Waerebeek had instructed it would have been delicious.
Photograph: Sam Fraser-Smith, under Creative Commons Licence.
I've just been experimenting with that British all-time classic, Toad in the Hole. Jamie Oliver's recipe from Jamie's Great Britain is quite good, but didn't work as well as I had hoped. His batter was excellent- light and puffy, but I wasn't convinced by the gloopy apple and onion sauce or the dried up rosemary. He's keen on de-construction is our Jamie: the sausages are served separately from the Yorkshire pudding. I didn't really see the point of this: isn't the Toad supposed to be in the Hole? Or is it the Hole in the Toad?
So I've developed my own recipe, tweaking it a bit here and there, simplifying (and I hope refining) it until we get to what I think, might just be a near-perfect Toad in the Hole. The rosemary infused milk gives the dish that extra dimension. Here's how you make it:
Pour 250ml semi-skimmed milk into a jug. Take two fresh rosemary sprigs and pull off the leaves, crumbling and rolling them in your fingers to release the oils. Add the rosemary leaves to the milk and let it infuse for about half an hour.
Strain the milk (discarding the rosemary leaves) and whisk in three eggs, 100g plain flour, a pinch of salt and white pepper to form a light, slightly runny, rosemary scented batter. Set aside.
Take a selection of Cumberland Sausages, place into a roasting pan and toss in olive oil. Cook in a hot oven (240° C) for about ten minutes. When the time's up, take out the pan and pour off most of the fat. Then pour in the batter, so that it surrounds the sausages. Back into the oven goes the pan. Watch it like a hawk (but don't open the door!). After a few minutes the batter will start rising and turning brown. You'll have your own idea when it's ready. The trick is to cook the batter properly, so that it's brown and crispy on top, yet soft in the centre. You dont' want to overdo the sausages either. Sprinkle the remaining rosemary leaves on top.
I serve this with a rich onion and cider gravy, which you can serve from a separate jug. It's very easy to make. Slice up two white onions very thinly indeed, and fry them in butter on a medium heat until they turn brown and caramelise. Sprinkle a bit of white sugar onto the onions to help.
I always think that onions need a great deal of cooking, so don't be scared to take your time over this. In goes a tiny splash of Balsamic Vinegar, a decent slug of Cider and 250ml beef stock. Bubble away like mad.
Whisk in a teaspoon of white flour mixed with water and cook on for a bit. This will help to thicken up the gravy.
Finish it off with a shake of Worcestershire Sauce to taste and then whisk in a final knob of butter to create a shiny glaze.
This will create a rich, very dark brown gravy with a piquant taste. You can of course, alter ingredients to taste, leaving out the balsamic vinegar if you find it too strong. I would also be tempted to add a dash of Soy Sauce for that extra umami kick. Those onions should be well cooked, very, very thin, and the sauce should not be too thick or gloopy. I also quite like the idea of straining off the onion slices- for that extra refinement; just leaving a glossy, dark, rich onion-flavoured gravy. Bisto? What on earth's that?
| | | | |
Mrs Aitch discovered the Lancashire Bomb a year or two ago, and it's now become very much a part of our Christmas. It's the most delicious creamy, strongly flavoured cheese. Invented by the Shorrock family about twenty five years ago. Hand-made too, and as they say on their website:
It has proven to be a great success in the North of England and is spreading South rapidly by word of mouth due to the great taste and originality of the product.
Visitors from the South have been sampling and buying the cheese bombs to take home and share with family and friends so they can experience the sensational Shorrock's hand made Lancashire Bombs.
The Lancashire Bombs are matured over two years creating a very creamy and full flavoured taste and texture. In addition to this original Lancashire Bomb Shorrock's now produce a variety of different flavours, this includes the Vintage Gold which is an extra year matured.
The cheese is wrapped in a black wax, with a loop, and looks very much like one of those old-fashioned fuse bombs cartoon characters used to throw: think Guy Fawkes, or sinister men with waxed moustaches, black capes and fedoras. More importantly, the cheese is utterly delicious, with a strong flavour and creamy texture.
I think it's terribly important to support enterprising local suppliers, such as Shorrocks. So please get on to their website right now and order in some cheese immediately. And if you don't fancy a Lancashire Bomb, there's a wide range of similar bombs to choose from: The Red Onion, The Cracked Black Pepper, The Garlic and Herb, The Hot Chilli, The Whisky and The Green Olive.
And some sad news...
Oskie, our beloved little 17 year old Burmese cat, is no more. The End happened suddenly. An urgent trip to the vet, brief hope ("it's probably a balance problem") and then that heart-wrenching call: "we need to make a decision immediately." Kidney failure, neurological problems, various complications and a reluctance on my part to go through the similar trauma we experienced almost exactly last year to the day; and you know that it's time to make that tough, but necessary, decision you've been dreading for the last few years.
And so, on a beautiful, golden afternoon in late November, poor Venetia dragged away from work, we made that final trip to the vet. Struggling to keep a stiff upper lip (and failing miserably), our lovely vet in tears, the whole wretched business was over in a jiffy.
Oskie was my first proper pet- and my first love; I won't deny that I was besotted. There had been a goldfish (won at the Gerrard's Cross fair), a neglected tortoise and a gaggle of miserable stick insects, but that was about it: my parents weren't very keen on animals. Maybe that's why I wasn't prepared for the sporadic gobbets of genuine, deeply felt grief that hit me the following week.
I'm fine now, of course I am, and looking forward, when the time is right, to the new additions to our cat and dog dynasty (Mrs Aitch is keen on a black pug, I like the idea of a whippet, and another Burmese kitten) but Oskie was something special- highly intelligent, elegant, affectionate and pretty. Sometimes, when she sat at the right angle, and cocked her head she looked like something straight from the pages of Beatrix Potter.
She had been through all my bachelor ups and downs, girlfriends good and bad, and survived the famous Battersea boiler explosion (neglected servicing on my part). A feisty little number too: she thought nothing of having a go at intruders: a scraggy town fox, four times her size; Polish builders (don't think she liked the smell of their rancid roll-ups) and poor old Valerie, our long suffering cleaner, who left notes saying 'that she had fed the rat'.
I wasn't even sure if I wanted to write about this, let alone tack it on to a post about cheese, for blogging is a strange compromise between privacy and self-promotion, but as I've been writing the Greasy Spoon for so long now, I suspect that it would have been false if I didn't. Anyway, I don't think Oskie would have minded. She would have sniffed that Lancashire Bomb, turned her nose up at it nonchalantly, and strolled away.
Technorati Tags: artisan cheese, british cheese, british cheese suppliers, british local cheese, christmas, christmas, christmas cheese, christmas cheese, gourmet cheese, lancashire cheese, lancashire cheese, local cheeses, oskie the cat, oskie the cat, pet bereavement, shorrocks cheese, shorrocks cheese
| | | | |
A little confession to you before I write this post: I'm already a fan of Colman's Mustard. Actually, I'm a massive, gi-normous, slavering obsessive. But then I'm also a paid-up supporter of the exclusive Heinz Tomato Ketchup Club, which might also include within its hallowed portals: Lea & Perrins's Worcestershire Sauce, Cooper's Oxford Marmalade, Twiglets, Coca Cola, Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers, Schweppes Tonic Water, Uncle Ben's Rice, Marmite, H.P. Sauce, Triscuits and French's Yellow Mustard. And then there's Land Rover, Brooks Brothers, Levi Jeans, Timex Watches, Lacoste, Barbour and Waddington's Cluedo and Monopoly. All classic bona-fide brands, many of them with a long and distinguished history. Plus integrity. Not a good idea to tamper with them, I think; Cadbury's- sorry, Kraft, Hasbro and Brooks Brothers, please take note.
But I do understand how this happens: some thrusting young marketing exec turns up, and under a great deal of pressure (oh- how glad I am to have escaped the corporate world!), announces in a meeting that what the brand needs is "a make-over, to attract the kids", without realising that they're in danger of destroying the very essence of what the brand is all about in the first place. Change for Changes Sake. Not necessarily the way forward. And the funny thing- I suspect- is that the young 'uns, or at least the cooler specimens, would probably identify more with the styling of the original packaging in the first place.
For these classic brands are all about comfort, are they not? And today, the concept of 'comfort' is very much at the cutting edge. Many of us will be eating Colman's Mustard, Kellogg's Corn Flakes or Heinz Baked Beans from birth to the grave. Not that I'm completely against the idea of subtle re-invention. But it's a very difficult thing to get right.
Take a look at Budd, the distinguished pajama and shirtmaker; a tiny- but relatively famous- shop in the Piccadilly Arcade, founded in 1910. It's recently been bought up by Huntsman, the Savile Row tailor, and they've given it a very subtle face-lift. Painted the walls a light grey, re-instated some new oak shelving, given the place a Hoover and a decent website. But that's about it Nothing More, Nothing Less. And it works brilliantly.
But back to that all-important mustard. Perhaps the greatest brand of English mustard is made by Colman's of Norwich. That famous 'blood and custard' packaging. The Bull logo. Founded by Jeremiah Colman in 1814, it's a classic English mustard with a deep yellow colour, tangy taste and powerful kick. Trying to pin-point that distinctive taste is difficult: slightly musty? salty? slighty sweet? It's perhaps, at it's best, with roast beef, sliced thinly and slightly rare.
Connoisseurs of the brand reckon that the best version is Colman's Mustard powder, which you mix up with water, and then leave for about twenty minutes to bring out the oils and for the full powerful flavour to develop. Personally, I prefer the stuff straight from the jar. It has a very different, more developed, saltier- dare I say it- slightly synthetic taste. Works brilliantly with fried bread too.
Believe it or not, there's a Colman's Mustard Cookbook. Haven't, as yet, tried any recipes from it, but it looks fun:
It's 1968 and I'm in some swankpot restaurant entertaining dollybird number two. Edda Dell'Orso's crooning Morricone. There's a fawning waiter in a maroon mess jacket. He's flambéing Crêpes Suzette at the table. Behind him hovers a suave eagle-eyed maitre d' of the old school. Or that, at least, is how I imagine it; in my dreams. Silver Service. That's what it used to be called. And when was the last time you had that?
Well, Greasy Spooners, I have some very good news indeed. Please make your way as fast as you can to the soon-to-be-hallowed doors of Otto's in the Gray's Inn Road. Otto's opened in 2012 so it's a relatively new kid on the block. It's a small-ish restaurant, sandwiched between a dry cleaner and a sushi bar, just across the road from the barristers of Gray's Inn and almost next door to the newscasters of ITN. Visiting Otto's is to enter a culinary time machine. A little trip in time back to one of those smartish, sophisticated and very grown up local restaurants which used to exist in the land of Never-Never. We're in Frasier and Niles Crane territory; this, I think, is what used to be known as 'gastronomy'.
The maverick genius behind this new enterprise is Austrian-born Otto Albert Tepassé, old hand and late of the Tour d' Argent and Mirabelle. If you're lucky- and rich- you may have eaten at the Tour d' Argent. It's that oh-so-famous restaurant in Paris where they serve the spécialité de la maison: pressed duck. But this is no ordinary duck. Each dish comes with a signed and numbered certificate as if it was a trinket from the Franklin Mint.
Tour d'Argent, Paris, 1974. The generosity of a more leisurely age.
Now, too, you can experience the delights of pressed duck, here in foggy old London. If you're prepared to pre-book a slot, pay £140 and watch the whole performance (it takes over an hour). For this is the generosity of a more lesiurely age. No second sittings here. Otto's devotes a whole page on its menu to the story behind its very own Edwardian duck press (Christofle, 1910, if you're wondering). They have a lobster press too, but somehow that doesn't seem quite as exciting:
Pressed Duck is mostly prepared in front of the customer. The Duck is roasted to rare and carried to the table where thin slices are cut from the breasts. The breast slices are then placed in a dish of reduced red wine. The rest of the Duck except for the legs, which are served grilled, is pressed in the special screw press. The juice obtained is flavoured with Cognac, thickened with Duck liver and poured over the slices of breast which finish cooking in the sauce.
Which reminds me. Back in the early 90's, I managed- with difficulty- to secure a job of sorts as a junior 'expert' (I hesitate to use the word) at the now defunct auction house, Phillips, which then eeked its trade at the shabbier end of New Bond Street. The first objet I ever had the pleasure of cataloguing was- you guessed- a silver-plated duck press; a relic, I expect of some smart high falutin' 50's restaurant gone bust. Floundering, I described it optimistically as a 'grape press' and gave it an embrassingly low estimate. It was bought for a steal by one Prudence Leith.
Inside, Ottos' has an Old European vibe. White- washed walls. Large tables, pressed linen, spacious padded banquettes in crushed rasberry, art nouveau lamps and Viennese busts. Decorative nick-nacks in silver-plate grace each table. Ours was a lobster. Downstairs, there's a framed poster of Catherine Deneuve's naked back, Belle de Jour; upstairs, bizarrely, there's a thing for Marilyn Monroe going on, and Audrey Hepburn to a lesser extent- photographs, posters and cushions. It's kitsch. But it works. I think. Up to a Point. It's weirdly edgy, even slightly eccentric as, seemingly, is Mein Host.
We sat quite close to the fabled duck press. Saw it in action, too- surrounded by a team of eager white coated waiters wrestling with the wheel on the top. They like trolleys at Otto's. And waiters, too, of which there seems to be an inexhaustible supply. At the table opposite us, a trolley spiked with a piglet's haunch (presumably the Jambon Agé de Serrano?) was parked with great ceremony.
The food is of the Old School. It's rich. It's Gothic. It's French. It's wonderful. My first course of brains (Cervelle de Veau a la Grenobloise, Poêlée de Champignons Sauvage) was superb. Barely cooked, flashed in the pan - as it should be, meltingly soft, amost runny, served in a conplex sauce enlivened with lemon, capers, parsley and mushrooms. Mrs Aitch's Snail Ravioli (Ravioles d’Escargots à la Bourguignonne) was 'divine'.
Then I had to have the Steak Tartare with Rôsti potatoes (Tartare de Bœuf, Préparé à la Table, Pomme d’Arphin), of course I did- it's a very Greasy Spoon dish. It said 'prepared at the table' on the menu. I thought this was going to take a minute or so. Not so, this was theatre. It took about fifteen minutes. Having something done in front of you is, of course, a childish pleasure. Yet another trolley was wheeled out with the numerous ingredients spread out across the top. Plus a wooden bowl. Our waitress cracked an egg into it and made a mayonnaise, subsequently mashing in all the other ingredients one by one. Lea & Perrins and Tabasco added to taste.
Mrs Aitch had Saddle of Hare in a rasberry vinegar and bitter chocolate sauce (Selle de Lièvre de Fennes, Choux Rouge, Vinaigre de Framboise et Sauce au Chocolat), an enlightened choice for a dark and rainy London night. The dish was 'immaculate' , the meat was 'unbelieveably tender' and it also came with 'delicious creamed potatoes'. 'It was so much better than I thought it was going to be'. Always a good sign, that.
Through all this culinary excitement, Otto remained inscrutable. But on leaving, I told him how much I had enjoyed the brains, and his face lit up into a huge smile. The bill came to about £75 for two, including wine, two courses and coffee. And that included a Kir Royale and a Bellini. You can also have a very reasonably priced lunch at Otto's: two courses costs £24 and a half carafe of the superior house wine is £12.
As you can gather, we're rather smitten with Otto's. He's ignored popular opinion and just gone ahead and done it. Opened an old-fashioned French restaurant of the Old School. As if the River Café had never exisited. It's all so splendidly unfashionable. It's terribly exciting. Who's ever heard of bruschetta?
Otto's, 182 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8EW (020 7713 0107)
Technorati Tags: french restaurants in london, greasy spoon restaurant reviews, london restaurant reviews, otto albert tepasse, ottos grays inn road, ottos london restaurant review, ottos pressed duck, tour d'argent pressed duck
| | | | |
Here's a Greasy Spoon classic for that most British celebration, "Bonfire Night": The Bullshot Cocktail.
It's supposed to be served cold, on ice; but I see no reason why it shouldn't be served hot (in a similar fashion to mulled wine or cider) and I have a sneaky suspicion that you might find it even better this way.
Empty a tin of beef consommé soup into a large pan. Pour in a large slug of vodka and add a dash of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of celery salt, and finish it off by seasoning it with salt and pepper.
Technorati Tags: autumn cocktail, autumn drinks, autumn recipes, bonfire night, bonfire night cocktail, bonfire night drinks, bonfire night recipes, guy fawkes night, guy fawkes night cocktail, guy fawkes recipes, lewes bonfire night
| | | | |