A neighbour knowing I like to photograph pheasant shoots mentioned that there would be racing pigeons in Oakham on Saturday. Now I know it is not quite the same thing but I was intrigued and went along. To be honest, I did not realise that pigeon racing was so popular. The ‘Up North Combine‘ had about 30,000 pigeons to release (pigeon fanciers say ‘liberate’) and is one of the largest combines in Europe. Where I come from in Essex it is just dog racing and ‘going to the dogs’ is still very popular. Working mans horse racing I guess.
The pigeons are looked after well and are sleeker and fitter than their wild cousins. Each week they are driven further from home as their strength increases during the racing season with some eventually flying home from Europe!
Now it is tempting to offer a pigeon recipe at the end of this blog but in the interests of good taste and the kindness shown to me by Steve, the ‘chief conveyor’ who gave me a book and a freshly laid pigeon egg (bet that bird got home a bit quicker!) – I’m not going to.
Of course you don’t have to use a goose egg to make a curd, lime, lemon or any other flavour (I’m going to try gooseberry in the summer). However we have a surplus of goose eggs on the allotment since the two females have started laying and they are not so popular as the duck and chicken eggs. The general view is that they are too ‘rich’. I’m not sure about that, but they are large – about 100g minus the shell.
Unfortunately the gander, Galahad, has now entered his testosterone fueled teenage period with distinct psychopathic tendencies. He has attacked three people now and his bite is as bad as his ‘bark’ – he won’t let go and has quite a grip. All of which makes for a somewhat wary exchange between us when I open up in the morning to let the geese and ducks out into the larger run for the day. He’s fine with me but I think the protective stick might have something to do with it! The problem now is that every time I see him I think of roast goose…The picture below is a carefree (minus testosterone) Galahad late last summer.
The two geese are looking quite bedraggled as well, Galahad has left muddy foot prints on their backs and pecked the feathers from the backs of their heads down to the skin as he hangs on to mate. You’d think he’d be a happy goose, but he’s just grumpy as hell. I think it’s time to re-name him, the chivalrous ‘Galahad’ has become acutely inappropriate! The chickens by comparison are a joy, friendly souls that scratch around my feet and lay nice clean brown eggs.
I made a lemon curd for the first time only quite recently, and liked it so much I thought it would be a good way to use up some goose eggs. It’s a bit like making a hollandaise sauce, the mixture must be cooked gently over a water bath to avoid scrambling the eggs and the process takes about 30 minutes of constant stirring. Sounds like hard work? I thought so and used a higher heat to cook the eggs quickly but using a stick blender with the puree disk attached instead of a wooden spoon to keep the mix smooth and scramble-free. I needed to reduce the heat and switch to a whisk as the curd thickened but it cut the time in half. I used less sugar too and an extra lime because they came 6 to a net, not 5 and I wasn’t going to have a solitary lime rolling around the bottom of the fridge for the next few weeks! The amount of juice is dependent on the limes anyway so it’s not a precise science. Which is pretty much how I teach cookery and I have to say I’m missing teaching adult education classes a lot, recipe development has meant I haven’t been able to commit this year so far, but hopefully by September I’ll be able to again, if they still need me!
The recipe is from Diana Henry’s book Salt, Sugar, Smoke (how to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish) and it’s a lovely book but feel free to modify the recipe as I have done!
I nearly forgot to say what I did with the finished curd – spooned it over thick (Total) Greek yogurt – boy is it good!
- 225g caster sugar
- 150g unsalted butter
- 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- juice and finely grated zest of 5 limes
- 1) Put all the ingredients into a bowl over a pan of simmering water (the bowl must not touch the water). Don't overheat or the eggs will curdle. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture first melts, then thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. This can take 30 minutes.
- 2) Immediately push the mixture through a nylon sieve (to remove strands of egg white)[I didn't do this, it's not necessary using a stick blender and I like the zest], pour into warm, dry sterilized jars, cover with waxed paper discs and seal. When cold, refrigerate for up to two weeks. Once opened, eat within three days.
Adapted from Salt, Sugar, Smoke
In this day and age of faster and cheaper it is reassuring to see fish smoked slowly and carefully overnight and over oak chips, the same way it has been done for 7o years at this particular factory – Keith Graham in Grimsby.
“The majority of smoked fish cured today is in modern kilns, but for a hundred years fish was smoked in traditional smoke houses. The traditional smoke houses which have survived in England are mainly found in Grimsby where the main developments in the process took place. For generations smoked fish was referred to as “cured”, but with the advent of mechanical kilns traditional smokers adopted the term “smoked” to emphasise that their process was entirely dependant on the smoke produced from the smouldering embers of wood shavings. Mechanical kilns are merely electrically heated using a minimal amount of smoke in their process. However, Kiln curers also adopted the term “smoked” for their process to mask the difference between the two products. This has made it necessary for the original process to be known as “traditionally smoked”. No region has a greater tradition of expertise in this process than Grimsby which is why the port has been granted special recognition by the European Union for it’s long history of curing. Grimsby Traditional Smoked Cod and Haddock are now protected by a PGI (Protected Geographical Indicator) meaning only fish cured in the traditional process can be called Grimsby Traditional Smoked Fish.”
As well as the quote above the link will take you to lots more interesting information on the history of fish and fishing in England after the war – in particular the rise of the fish finger!
What is so important to me though is to see first hand the pride and care that the small number of people who work in this grade two listed factory take with this most simple of products. The fish is filleted by hand (not at the factory) and carefully selected before brining for a brief 10 minutes in a light salt water solution. The fish is then draped over speights before being stacked on horses. Around about 11am the speights are hand-loaded into the chimneys one man stood above another, climbing the chimneys (20 of them) and passing the speights up to be stacked on the ledges. Today they are clipped on to safety points as they climb – an innovation that dates back only 5 years!
The fish will smoke overnight with the chimneys drawing in cool east coast air to ensure the fish is ‘cold smoked’ yielding a light creamy / beige colour and superb flavour the following morning. In the case of the smoked haddock (which is my favourite) the fish is mainly Icelandic hook and line caught with Norwegian stock used when Icelandic suffers a seasonal dip. All of the supply from this particular factory is destined for Waitrose in the UK – and nowhere else.
I used to poach smoked haddock, but actually in the factory they microwave it under a plate to taste – and it cooks very well! I don’t have a microwave so instead bake it on a lightly oiled tray in a hot oven (180°C). This method preserves all of the delicate smoked flavour and firm texture – it only takes a few minutes – the fish should be slightly undercooked. Bridget the Indian Runner duck donated another of her wonderful eggs to go with it and although creamed leeks are a perfect accompaniment I had neither so used what I had, cabbage and a light velouté made using some fish stock I had in the freezer, a little salt and pepper – that’s it. Keep it simple and taste the haddock!
Footnote: Talking of doing things traditionally and slowly I bought a ‘new’ camera this week. Made between 1979 and 1984 the Pentax ME Super film camera has an all metal body, feels lovely to hold and apparently was considered a very good camera in its day. £10 from a charity shop. Next stop rolls of film and developing chemicals.
On Sunday last I taught a lovely couple at my home the basics of fish preparation and cookery. We had a variety of fish to work with including sea bream, skate, clams, lobster, crab and the star of the show, arctic char. This most northerly fresh water fish is found in deep, cold glacial lakes and is a close cousin of salmon and lake trout. The fish we had were from farmed stock in Scotland.
Once filleted we had plenty of fish to steam, poach and cure as gravadlax – or gravlax, both are correct. Literally ‘buried’ salmon, this Scandinavian method of preserving fish initially involved a light salting before burying in the sand above the high-water mark to lightly ferment.
Being rather short of sand, and tidal waters for that matter, in Rutland, we settled instead for the ‘johnny come lately’ method of curing in salt, sugar, cracked pepper and dill. Now this was a dish I used to make on a regular basis when a young head chef in London and it used to fly out the door. It’s a great ‘little earner’ too because once a side of salmon has been cured it aspires to the status of smoked salmon – which customers expect to pay a premium for.
In all that time, never once did I use a recipe – judging by eye how much salt, sugar, dill and pepper to use. I realised (before we started cooking, obviously!) that this approach would probably not inspire confidence in my clients ability to replicate the dish again after making it with me; which would defeat the whole point of making it with them in the first place. So I researched a recipe which was remarkably similar to how I remember making it 25 years ago. Turned out I’d been using a recipe all along, who would have guessed!
1 side of salmon (about 1kg) – skin on and bone free!
1 tbsp peppercorns (black or white, depending on preference)
70g caster sugar
50g coarse sea salt
If you are at all nervous, just cut the recipe in half and make a smaller quantity first time.
The easiest way is to put the peppercorns, salt and sugar in a pestle and mortar or a coffee /spice grinder and give a little whizz / pound. Don’t grind to a powder, about the size of coffee granules is fine. Chop the dill coarsely and mix with the dry ingredients. Coat the salmon from head to toe (flesh side, not skin!) and place into a food bag or wrap tightly in cling film. Refrigerate for 24 hours minimum and 48 maximum. Anywhere in between is fine. Excessive curing dries the fish out to much.
Scrape off the gubbins on top (but don’t be too pedantic) and slice as thinly as you can – like smoked salmon; well as smoked salmon should be, not how the pre-packed stuff often is now which is too thick.
You will have a little bounty of salty sweet fishy juices remaining which you must turn into a mustard sauce to accompany. Take a large fresh egg yolk and mix with a generous tablespoon of this elixir, a good dollop of wholegrain mustard and slowly drizzle rapeseed or sunflower oil whilst whisking furiously to emulsify the mixture. In effect you will end up with a mayonnaise. Taste and add more fishy juices and mustard if you wish. The gravadlax is delicious piled on thinly sliced spelt soda bread – there is a recipe several blogs back.
I had a lovely thank you email from my clients ‘the hands on teaching was perfect along with your very calm, clear and simple explanations meant we will remember most of what you showed us’ which I think is a complement apart from the bits they’ve forgotten
I couldn’t decide which photo to use and I didn’t have much fish left having eaten most of it before thinking it would make a good post. One was natural light only on a gloomy day and the other used a Bowens daylight balanced beauty dish – neither are great, but I was hungry and didn’t want to spend all day on it!
Other news this week – I have a double page spread coming up in the May edition of the Shooting Gazette!
OK, I admit it. This post is not remotely concerned with food. Obviously diet is extremely important when you teach and practice yoga (as it is generally of course!) but this post is purely portrait photography without even my usual tenuous link to food. I have a feeling this post and the last one may well set a trend for 2015 with occasional forays back to simple food recipes. Let’s face it – there’s no shortage of really good food blogs out there and I like to think I’m developing all the time as a photographer and am not restricted purely to food because that’s how I laid out my stall three years ago. Three years this month actually. So a very big hello to Michelle – if she’s still reading this rambling discourse – hang in there Michelle, you were my first ‘follower’ and new ones are rarer than hens teeth!
For the portrait shots I cropped closely around the head to avoid too much variety in background, paying close attention to capturing catch-lights whilst achieving a ‘buoyant but neutral’ head-shot with a ‘natural rather than artificially posed look’.
However,I did still want to see individual character and my directions to my subjects were to ‘look relaxed and not think about the camera – just gaze into the distance and look how you are feeling’. Probably not the best direction in the world and this worked better with some more than others. A few of the images are a little more serious than I would have liked, but I assume that’s how they were feeling. There is quite some variety in eyes and mouth and as David Bate points out:
“An expression can have a dramatic impact, even with the slightest movement of the eyes or mouth. The mouth is read as smiling, sad, angry, gaping, pout etc. Eyes can seem ‘alive’, ‘glaring’, ‘seductive’ etc”. (Bate 2009, p.74).
All of my subjects had a clear idea of how they wanted to look in their photograph, some were naturally more relaxed and this shows clearly in their image. Given that these are all yoga teachers I wanted to capture a ‘peaceful and serene’ feel within each image. Yoga is a way of life for these teachers and I wanted them to look how I imagined they saw themselves in this role; helping people to restore / maintain calm and balance in their lives.
I guess you can tell I didn’t know what to title this post, maybe I should have written it first! It’s a series of images I took last year late August at Whissendine windmill. My third visit in as many months I knew that I wanted to focus on the windows arranged over six floors. The mill has such a beautiful light that creates this gorgeous sepia tone – the images are as shot, I haven’t added filters during processing. When the millstones are still the mill is very quite and peaceful, cobwebs heavy with fine flour curtain each window and the millers tools and implements find convenient resting places on the stone sills. I wanted to try and capture not just how the mill looks, but how it makes me feel. I wonder if I’ve managed to communicate this feeling or not? As part of my Open College of the Arts course I’m researching and studying many photographers and it’s made me learn to appreciate narrative within series of photographs. Although the composition is towards the windows the exposure is for the mill, the windows become pure white light illuminating the interior, so is it about the windows, the mill or the light?
I’d like to think that this series of images ties in with my other blog here, rather more than Taste and Light – but it’s still food related, sort of?
I used a tripod this time to compose carefully rather than increasing ISO to negate camera shake. Although modern DSLR’s are supposed to handle ISO very well I find that anything above 1600 introduces unacceptable noise. This can be rectified afterwards but at the cost of softening the image. So fixing one problem creates another. Lens was Tamron 24-70 f2.8, there is no option to change lenses once working – there is far too much flour in the air. All the photographs were taken within a three hour period, the light was different in each window as I worked my way around this circular building.
At this time of year daylight makes a grudging appearance, clinging to the night like a shy child clinging to its mothers skirts. January is not the best month for me – I really feel the lack of daylight and on a gray day no sooner has the feeble light plucked up enough courage to dimly illuminate my day than the darkness asserts its authority again. It’s not great for photography either. I know we do have some crisp sunny days but they are still short! Which makes it all the harder to get out of bed in the morning – especially Sunday! What this time of year is good for though, at the weekend, is leisurely brunches!
These scotch pancakes are quick and easy to make, virtually gluten free – replace the spelt flour with more gluten free flour and they would be completely gluten free. I like to add some spelt though as it adds a nice nutty flavour with a bit more texture; gluten free flour is very fine. The spelt flour from Whissendine windmill is not too finely milled and is all the better for it – it tastes wonderful and I’m grateful to the miller, Nigel Moon, for keeping this traditional craft alive. I like to buy my flour from him at the windmill and he always has time for a chat too!
Dry cured smoked streaky bacon is delicious with these pancakes, the whole lot drizzled in maple syrup, golden syrup or honey. I quite like butter on mine as well…Children generally like making pancakes too and because they are quite thick they find them easier to make than the thin variety – although without the fun of trying to toss them as high as the ceiling!
This recipe makes about 10 pancakes – enough for two to three servings. Do check the use by date on your baking powder. It’s the sort of ingredient that hangs about at the back of the cupboard past its best! It looses its active properties very quickly as its use by date approaches – throw it away and buy fresh. These pancakes should be light and fluffy, not flat.
- 75g gluten free flour
- 25g wholemeal spelt flour
- pinch of salt
- 6g light brown sugar
- 10g baking powder
- 1g ground cinnamon
- 1 small egg
- 120g milk
- mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly
- add the egg and milk and whisk to a smooth batter
- add small ladle-fulls to a hot non-stick pan and cook for about 30 seconds on each side.
- keep them warm in a clean tea towel as you cook them
I thought I’d share something a little more personal in this post, a photographic essay as part of my Open College of the Arts degree course. It is a personal response to the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, but also reflects my love not only of food, but where it comes from. It should never just be about a pretty plate of food – this is where it starts. I hope you enjoy it.
These images were taken during a pheasant shoot at Morkery Woods, in Lincolnshire. Each year approximately seventeen hundred pheasant chicks are released into the wood by a game shoot consortium. Hunters or ‘guns’ then pay a membership fee plus day rate to hunt the birds and shoot them. The guns alternate between ‘beating’ – driving the birds towards the guns and putting them to flight and shooting. A handful of professional beaters assist and many of the guns have gun dogs – retrievers and spaniels. The dogs work tirelessly all day and clearly love their role in this sport. The shot birds are divided between the guns afterwards. If there is an excess they typically end up at the ‘fur and feather’ market in Melton Mowbray.
These images are from the second shoot I’ve attended this year. The first time I used a Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 lens and although captured some pleasing images couldn’t always get as close as I wanted – it’s important not to distract the guns at a critical moment. This time I used a Nikon 70-200mm f4 lens and took my tripod as well for extra stability. Camera body was a Nikon D800. The benefit of this is that with 36mp if I need to crop heavily afterwards I still have an acceptably large file to work with. With this type of photography it is rarely possible to fill the frame with the shot. Things happen quickly and it is impossible to guarantee being in the right place at the right time. All images are captured in RAW and processed in Lightroom 5 afterwards. Images are saved in sRGB at a resolution of 300ppi. I converted these images to black and white in Silver Efex Pro because I feel that there is so much more drama with this type of subject in black and white. The snowy weather provided good contrast too.
My objective for the day was to capture the ‘decisive moment’ when the gun fires, the bird is shot, the dog retrieves, the cartridges ejected and the gun re-loaded.
The first image shows a dog about to retrieve. It shows enthusiasm and motion frozen in time from one ear up and the other down, to the flecks of snow kicked up by the running animal. David Bate explains:
“Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous idea of the ‘decisive moment’ fuses a notion of instantaneity in photography (the freezing of an instant) with an older concept from art history: story-telling with a single picture”.
Bate, D. (2009, p56) Photography: the key concepts. Bloomsbury Academic.
To appreciate this concept within this particular image the viewer must have prior knowledge and then the story unfolds, why the dog is there, what it is about to do and what comes next.
The second image shows a dog carrying a pheasant back to its owner. The beaters are emerging from the wood behind at the end of this particular shoot. The guns and beaters (roles reversed this time) will regroup elsewhere in the wood and start again. The fact that the beaters are so close to the retrieving dog tells the viewer that this is the decisive moment of this shoot – the end of this stage. This is in effect reportage photography although Bate tells us that reportage is:
“an ambiguous concept ranging from the reporting of an event as news to the description of social processes and their impact on people, whether as individuals or as a whole social group”.
Bate, D. (2009, p56) Photography: the key concepts. Bloomsbury Academic.
These series of images both report on this event and also provide a social commentary – that of rural sport and the people who participate in it. Another observation could be made – that of social background, shooting covers a wide social demographic, but that is outside the scope of this brief.
The third image is perhaps the epitome of the decisive moment, shotgun cartridges being ejected from the barrels, their movement along with smoke from the gun barrels frozen in time.
The forth image is perhaps reportage more than the decisive moment but serves to link the series, a brief pause as a gun inspects his kill before we return to the decisive moment in image five. A pheasant shot from a high angle is just about to hit the ground, wings swept back. It could just be landing but the gun and the spaniel moving towards it tell a different story. Image six confirms this as the spaniel makes an easy retrieve, literally at his masters feet.
Images seven and eight show the process repeating itself although each image can be read on its own. The cartridges being loaded:
“indicating a future event caused by the past whose outcome is anticipated by what we see in the picture”.
Bate, D. (2009, p58) Photography: the key concepts. Bloomsbury Academic.
The same holds true for the final image as well. Henri Cartier-Bresson believed the concept of the decisive moment as:
“one unique picture whose composition possesses such vigour and richness, and whose content so radiates outward from it, that this single picture is a story in itself”.
Bate, D. (2009, p57) Photography: the key concepts. Bloomsbury Academic. (Cited in Henri Cartier-Bresson, Images à la sauvette  (‘The Decisive Image’); extracts are reprinted in David Campany, ed.,The Cinematic Image (London: Whitechapel/MIT Press, 2007), p43.
So Cartier-Bresson believed that a single image should be sufficient. The brief requires a series of six to eight photographic prints and although the aim is not to tell a story, it is expected that there will be a linking theme – ‘whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time’. Looking carefully at these images with the knowledge that the viewer now has each image tells its own story. Sometimes this knowledge is required, other times individual interpretation will suffice. For example Cartier-Bresson’s image of a striding foot does not require prior knowledge, the viewer can decipher for themselves. However in the image of two Indonesians removing a heavy picture of their Dutch colonial governors out of a state building the day before independence, arguably does.
Our final week at New College Stamford and we are cooking again for Christmas – desserts. It’s been a bit of a crush at times but I do hope you all managed to glean some useful tips and tricks with the odd recipe thrown in as well.
Raspberry, Pistachio and Rose Semi-Freddo
This is a great dessert to make a few days ahead and a perfect alternative dessert to Christmas pudding. The rose water gives a delightful perfume and the raspberries and pistachio nuts make this a very pretty dessert. Remember – we’ve talked a lot about variations on pretty much everything we’ve made and this is no exception. Different fruits, flavourings etc. Finally, remember to transfer from the freezer to the fridge about 30-40 minutes before turning out and slicing.
Line a loaf tin or terrine with a double layer of cling film.
200g caster sugar, 90g honey, 5 egg whites, 600ml double cream, 100g chopped pistachio nuts, 2 tablespoons rosewater, 250g raspberries and mint sprigs to serve.
Heat the sugar with 125ml water. Bring to a simmer and add the honey.
Whisk the egg whites to a soft peak, add the hot syrup and whisk until cold.
Whisk the cream until it holds a soft peak and fold into the egg whites with half the raspberries, the pistachio nuts and rosewater.
Freeze. Serve decorated with the remaining raspberries and sprigs of mint.
Orange Crème Caramel
A favourite dessert, I love the silky texture of these traditional baked milk puddings. Larger ones can be made too, rather than individual desserts.
Makes between 4 – 6 ramekins.
2 oranges, 3 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks, 500ml milk, 2 tablespoons orange liquor, 200g sugar, vanilla.
Heat 100g of the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water until a caramel colour is reached. Add 3 more tablespoons of water and divide the caramel between the ramekins.
Heat the milk with 50g sugar and a touch of vanilla pod – don’t boil.
Whisk the eggs with 50g sugar and the zest of the 2 oranges. Add the orange liquor. (Don’t over-whisk, you don’t want to make the eggs frothy).
Add a thin slice of peeled orange to each ramekin, mix the eggs and milk together and strain into the ramekins.
Cook in a bain marie (water-bath) in a pre-heated oven 150°C for 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely before turning out.
Run the blade of a sharp knife around the edge of each ramekin and invert a plate over each. Flip the right way up and with a little shake and jiggle the Crème Caramel should plop out.
For Graham and Sally – that was a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, thank you!
This week is all about vegetables at New College Stamford; three dishes that deliver on taste and looks, yet are easy to prepare in advance and pop in the micro-wave to re-heat before serving. Yes, you did read that right, the micro-wave. Like a lot of chefs I know the main function of a micro-wave in a kitchen is for re-heating mugs of tea that have gone cold through pressures of work. In a busy professional kitchen so much eating and drinking is done on the hoof, it can be hard to stop. My wife complained for ages that I did as much eating standing up as sitting down! Suffice to say the micro-wave can be your friend – especially at Christmas or when entertaining.
The benefit of cooking vegetables at least in the morning, if not the day before, is that time can be taken to ensure everything is cooked and seasoned to perfection, placed into serving dishes, and cling-filmed ready to spend a few minutes in the micro-wave just before you want to serve them. The cling film will balloon and then shrink over the vegetables keeping them snug and warm whilst you re-heat the next ones. Take the cling film off just before serving (beware hot steam) and only the absence of a stove top cluttered with steaming saucepans will give you away. Enjoy your moment of glory as your guests marvel at your calm efficiency and organisation!
Let’s start with red cabbage, it’s seasonal, colourful and cheap. Usually it will be shredded and braised in the oven. I prefer to shred it really finely and then cook it etuvee – as we have with leeks recently – with a little oil, butter and water / red wine. I find this keeps a gorgeous deep red colour that is often leached out when braised for an hour or more in the oven. Vinegar and sugar give a glossy sweet and sour coating that goes so well with red cabbage and the addition of dates and walnuts make this a truly festive accompaniment that goes well with so many dishes – game and beef casseroles in particular, but turkey too.
The third vegetable dish is a panache of vegetables. Panache is French for a flamboyant manner and reckless courage! I quite like this term, I’m not sure about the reckless courage bit, but the radishes and spring onions I think are flamboyant as well as inexpensive. If you struggle with this idea then think of the spring onions as baby leeks at a fraction of the cost and the radishes as baby pink turnips – which is exactly what they taste like when cooked. Vary the vegetables depending on availability and price. Cook them separately to ensure each vegetable is cooked just so and think about colour combinations too. There isn’t a recipe for this dish – select your vegetables according to colour, texture and availability. Cut accordingly so they are all of a similar size. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook each variety of vegetable individually. Cook the green vegetables first – ensure the water is boiling rapidly and don’t cook too many vegetables at once. Cook in batches if necessary. Keep slightly under cooked and remove with a slotted spoon or ‘spider‘ to a bowl of icy water to stop them cooking immediately. This will preserve nice, bright greens. Cook root vegetables next – in the same pan – cooked how you like them (take one out and taste). Remove and refresh as before. Cook radishes last (they turn the water pink) and don’t over cook, they lose colour and don’t taste so nice. Drain everything together, season lightly and place in a serving dish. Put a knob of butter on top and cling film. Residual water on the vegetables will help them ‘steam’ in the microwave. Remember, all three vegetable dishes can be re-heated this way.
Blanching the outer leaves of Savoy cabbage and then stuffing them with the shredded heart is very simple and looks so effective. Different ingredients can be added to make them an attractive vegetarian option too; toasted pine nuts and feta cheese for example. Once made these keep very well in the fridge for a couple of days and re-heat in the micro-wave perfectly. If fridge space is a problem, store in tubs and transfer to their serving dishes on the day – they’ll be fine for a few hours and will re-heat quicker at room temperature than cold from the fridge. This applies to all three vegetable dishes.
Created at a restaurant in Stockholm these potatoes can be made with main-crop or new. When entertaining I like to use medium size main-crop and use a round pastry cutter so each potato is the same size – they look great served next to the little stuffed Savoy cabbages. For the last 10 minutes of cooking sprinkle with Parmesan or Grana Padano breadcrumbs mixed with a little smoked paprika. Note: as Sue suggested, a few slivers of garlic would make a great addition popped between the slices, a little lemon zest is good too.
Vegetables for Christmas
- 1 small red cabbage about 450g
- 40g sunflower oil
- 85g water (approximately)
- 60g golden caster sugar
- 60g balsamic vinegar
- 100g pitted dates
- 50g walnut halves
- sea salt and freshly milled pepper
- 1 small savoy cabbage with lots of dark outer leaves - about 600g
- 36g (2 rashers) dry cure smoked streaky bacon
- 25g unsalted butter
- 25g pine nuts
- 6-8 medium size potatoes
- Sunflower oil
- 25g + 25g unsalted butter
- 10g breadcrumbs
- 15g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
- 1g smoked paprika
- finely shred the cabbage
- heat the oil with a little butter in a pan
- add the cabbage and stir fry over a medium heat until the cabbage starts to wilt
- add the water (or red wine), vinegar, sugar, dates and walnuts
- continue to stir fry until the cabbage is just soft
- the liquid should have reduced to a sweet-sour glaze
- if the liquid evaporates before the cabbage is cooked, add a little more water
- season to taste
- remove 6-8 of the largest outer leaves and cook in a large pan of boiling water
- don't overcook, but they must be more than just blanched
- when cooked remove with a slotted spoon (keep the water) and refresh in icy water. drain
- finely shred the heart and cook in the same pan of water until just soft
- drain in a colander and spread the cabbage on a tray to cool down
- finely slice the bacon and fry gently in the butter until crisp and golden, add the pine nuts
- add the bacon mixed to the shredded cabbage, season to taste and mix well
- take one of the outer leaves and cut out the thick part of the mid-rib, but don't cut the leaf in half!
- place the leaf outside surface facing down, onto a clean tea towel
- place a generous tablespoon of the shredded cabbage mix on top and fold over the outer leaf
- gather the tea towel around the leaf and gently 'wring' into a ball
- carefully unfold the towel and repeat with the next leaf
- pre-heat the oven to 180°C
- peel the potatoes and stamp out large rounds with a pastry cutter (or leave as they are for larger Hasselbacks). New potatoes don't need peeling
- cut a slice off the bottom of each potato and place two wooden chopsticks on either side
- cut thin slices down to these which will leave about 5mm of potato holding the slices together.
- place on a well oiled baking tray
- brush the potatoes with 25g melted butter and season
- cook for about 30 minutes by which time they should be nearly cooked (check by inserting a skewer) and golden
- melt the 2nd 25g butter in a pan and add the breadcrumbs, paprika and cheese
- scatter over the potatoes and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes until golden and crispy
- serve immediately
- although the potatoes need to be cooked and served immediately, they can be peeled and cut the day before - just keep them in cold water
- the breadcrumb mix can be made the day before too