Monthly Archives: October 2012

Happy Blogday to Me! Celebratory duck dishes and musings on stock-making to follow.

Hello hello hello

It’s officially been a year since my first ever blog post on recipeforprocrastination!  And in the spirit of celebration, I’ve returned to my roots and have been squeezing every single possible ounce of deliciousness out of a couple of ducks.*

As I am currently awaiting the start of my new job, I am due to have some visitors next week, including my mum and family friend Elaine.  This means I’ve got to try and cook something spectactular for their visit.  Whole ducks were on offer at the supermarket, and it seemed like a great excuse to buy a couple whilst I still had access to a staff discount card!

Why two ducks?  Because there will be four of us and I plan to serve a breast each.  As a packet of two duck breasts cost £7 and the whole bird was £8 (with 10% discount taking it to £7.20) it was an absolute no brainer to buy whole ducks instead.

Once I got home, I butchered the ducks (see this post for how I did it).  The livers were separated from the giblets and put in the freezer (along with some other duck liver and rabbit liver which are currently sitting in there) and the breasts were also frozen.  Unfortunately, that more or less exhausted all of my freezer space, and I still had the legs and the carcass to deal with.

One of the photos from my original duck butchery post.

The carcass was easy – I roasted the bones, along with the giblets and excess skin, until they had browned and the fat had started to run (roasting both improves the flavour of the stock and makes the duck fat useable).  The fat was poured into a tub for later use, and everything else was put in the slow cooker with a couple of carrots, a bit of leftover fennel (from my rabbit meal the other day) and topped up with water.  I cooked on low for several hours, in order to make a delicious smelling stock (see this post for my basic method).  Now, with the frequency that I make stock I had assumed that I knew everything there was to know about it.  However, recently I have started doing a few new things.

  1. Using the slow cooker rather than the hob makes a lot of sense because for one thing, the likelihood of it boiling dry is more or less nil and for another, I can leave it on overnight or while I’m out of the house.
  2. I’ve discovered that you can re-use the same bones when you make stock, up until the point that they basically crumble.  Chicken carcasses will only last for a couple of batches, but duck carcasses appear to be a little more resilient.
  3. Adding a couple of spoons of vinegar to stock will improve its mineral content.  Did you ever do that thing in science where you soaked a chicken bone in vinegar until it turned rubbery?  That’s because the acidity of the vinegar encourages the calcium to leach out.  Calcium’s good for you, and you can’t taste the vinegar in the end product, so this small addition is a great idea.
  4. Reducing the stock down concentrates the flavour and takes up less storage space.  This is an obvious one, but I’d never really thought about it until looking through the Ballymaloe Cookery Course book (yes, I know I mention that one a lot, but it really is a manual as well as just a recipe book).  Since I’ve started reducing my stocks, they’ve got better and better.

Another ancient photo to illustrate stock-making.

I do declare that the duck stock I currently have on the go is the best I’ve ever made.  It smells incredible, and just tastes of liquid duck.  It’s so gelatinous that it’s basically set hard in the fridge and I’m really looking forward to using it.

I still had to deal with the pesky legs though, as I couldn’t use them immediately, but didn’t have any room in the freezer for them.  Enter confit duck.  I’ve not made it for a while, and this time I actually had nearly enough fat to completely cover the meat.  I used primarily duck fat, but also some bacon fat from my carbonara and a roast gammon we cooked recently (both of which came from A Man’s dad’s pigs).  The confit duck legs are currently sitting in a casserole dish in my fridge, submerged in fat and covered with a lid.  See this post for my confit duck method.

A previous experiment with confit duck. I may well try out the green lentils again – they were perfect!

So there we have it.  I can cook stuff for a whole year, and still I’ll return to the same old things again and again.  Nothing much changes.  I’ll probably start hanging back on the food blog front now (I’m sure you’ve noticed me starting to slack off over the past couple of months already).  I start my new job on 29th October and will have less time to cook, and a lot of my free time is being taken up by wedding planning now.  I’ll pop back now and then though, if only when I manage particularly unusual or beautiful food.  It’s been fun though!

Massive huge love

Gemma xx

*As a side note, the duck thing was honestly completely unintentional – it just happened that way!  It did amuse me when I realised my first post was about duck, I checked and it happened to be a year ago.  Perhaps it’s providence (or more likely, I guess this time of year must be prime for special offers on ducks).

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Café review – Scoffs Café, Chippenham

Hello

Yesterday, A Man and I gave notice of marriage in Chippenham (yay!) and it took less time than we thought it would, so we got to go to a café before he had to go back to work (double yay!).  He recommended Scoffs, which is fairly close to his office.

I (and clearly also A Man) would absolutely recommend this café.  The staff were really friendly, the atmosphere was relaxed and it was reasonably priced.  I also love their ethos – supporting local producers, and providing great quality home cooking and baking – qualities I really respect in an independently run café or restaurant.

After A Man went back to work, I stayed for my lunch and was served with a truly enormous jacket potato with chilli, cheese and salad.  I had asked for coleslaw but hadn’t expected it to be a) home made and b) bloody delicious.  The chilli itself was well spiced without being too hot and contained loads of different veggies as well as the mince.  The portion size was incredibly generous and very reasonably priced – I happily popped my change in the tip jar.

I must have been in the café for around an hour and a half in total, and never felt pressurised to leave.  Even after I’d finished my mega-lunch, I sat reading for some time before I left.

If I’m ever in Chippenham over lunchtime (or even just fancy a coffee and a cake) I will definitely be considering Scoffs.  Yet another great example of why you should support local, independent cafés, coffee shops and restaurants!

Spaghetti Carbonara

Hello there!

I actually made this recipe last week and completely forgot to write it up.  I’d spent the day shopping for clothes and wandering around IKEA, and by the time I got home I just could not be bothered to cook anything elaborate.  Luckily we had some excellent quality bacon, courtesy of one of A Man’s dad’s pigs in our freezer.  This bacon has around an inch of fat on it and had an incredibly rich flavour – it was perfect for this recipe.  I also happened to have just bought some pasta bowls which I was eager to use, so this seemed as good an excuse as any.

Carbonara should be silky, glossy and rich.  The key is to only cook the egg with the residual heat from the pasta, or you’ll end up scrambling it.  You can add onion, chillis, herbs etc if you fancy but I didn’t bother.

Much love

Gemma xx

Spaghetti Carbonara

75-100g spaghetti per person (fresh or dried is fine)
Good quality back bacon with a decent layer of fat
3 or 4 smoked garlic cloves
One medium sized egg per person
A good chunk of parmesan
Black pepper

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions.  Separate the fat from the meat of the bacon, and chop both into chunks.  Fry the fat in a pan on a medium-low heat to render it down.
  2. Smash the garlic cloves with the flat of a knife and add to the bacon fat with the chopped bacon.  Fry for several minutes until cooked and slightly crispy (but take care not to burn it).
  3. Beat the eggs together.  Grate the parmesan and add most to the beaten eggs with a little black pepper.
  4. Drain the pasta and put it back in the pan.  Add the egg mixture and stir well.  Add the bacon, garlic and a little of the bacon fat and stir until all the ingredients are well combined.  Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining parmesan, more black pepper and a side salad.  I saved the bacon fat and used on the Bunny Ballotines I made the other day.

Bunny Ballotine

Good evening good evening good evening.

Tonight’s dinner could be described as a little extravagant for a weeknight meal, but sod it – I’m celebrating.  Today marked my last ever shift at Morrisons and consequently the last time I will ever be required to preside over the self-scan checkouts, which easily has to be the most hateful job in the universe.  Thus I decided that I had a very good reason to cook something unusual, slightly labour-intensive and a little bit cheffy.  I was really pleased with how this turned out, and although it tipped the scales slightly in favour of being restaurant food (as far as my cooking ever does) it was really good value to make.

If you can get your butcher to bone your rabbit for you, I highly recommend it as I made something of a hash of it.  Also, this would work equally well with chicken.  You can read about my reasons for eating rabbit here.

I realise this isn’t technically a ballotine, as I didn’t stuff it with anything.  However, I decided that it was a better name than “Bunny in Bacon” which was the alternative.

Much love

Gemma xx

Bunny Ballotine

Boned rabbit pieces
Buttermilk
Salt and Pepper
4 rashers rindless streaky bacon per person
Fennel
Parsnips
Savoy Cabbage

  1. Marinade the rabbit in buttermilk seasoned with salt and pepper.  Do this overnight if possible, or for a couple of hours if not.
  2. Grease some squares of tin foil (one per ballotine).  I used some of the fat I rendered from using A Man’s dad’s bacon to cook carbonara the other day.  Lay the bacon rashers, slightly overlapping one another, on the greased foil.  Stretch the bacon slightly with your fingers to thin it out, but be careful not to break it.
  3. Lay the rabbit pieces on top of the bacon.  If you are anything like me, and end up with lots of little pieces of rabbit rather than simply boned joints, that’s OK because the bacon will keep everything together.  Wrap the bacon around the rabbit, and wrap the foil tightly around the bacon, securing the ends.

    Action shot

  4. Bring a pan of water to the boil and turn down to a simmer.  Cook the parcels for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, quarter the fennel and parsnips (Peeling if necessary) and shred the cabbage.
  5. Add the fennel and parsnips to the water for 10 minutes.  Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat as high as it will go.
  6. Remove the veg from the water, place on the hot tray and put it back in the oven to bake.  Unwrap the rabbit and keep warm on a plate.  Turn the oven down to a medium-hot temperature.
  7. After the veg has been cooking for around 10 minutes, add the rabbit to the baking tray.  Cook the cabbage and serve everything once the bacon is crispy and the fennel and parsnips have started to brown.
  8. Serve with a light gravy (preferably home made, but we had Bisto 🙂 )

Rabbit Stew

Aloha

One of the butcher’s shops in my town has recently been advertising wild rabbits, at £4.50 per kilo.  I have eaten rabbit before but hadn’t cooked it, so decided to give it a go.  Now I know that Brits often get squeamish about eating rabbits, primarily because they’re cute and fluffy and people keep them as pets.  I, on the other hand, have no such qualms.  Rabbit meat is high in protein and iron, but low in calories and fat.  Rabbits breed prolifically, and are considered to be a major pest by farmers.  Eating wild rabbit is therefore beneficial to the farming community.

In terms of taste, rabbit is (clichéd as this may sound) very similar to chicken.  Because it is very lean, it benefits from being paired with a rich sauce.  I made mine from home-made chicken stock which was enriched with bacon from one of A Man’s dad’s pigs – there was about an inch of fat under the rind.

And in case you think I’m heartless and cruel, you may like to know that I kept pet rabbits from the ages of 5 to 20.  I loved them to bits and (unless my parents have been keeping secrets from me for the past 15 or so years) didn’t eat any of them.  I don’t see this as being at odds with a willingness to chow down on their wild cousins.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s important not to detach yourself from the source of your food and not to be sentimental about certain types of meat, while happily gorging yourself on others.

Has anyone else got any good rabbit recipes for me?  I put half of it (along with the liver) in the freezer.

Much love

Gemma xx

 

Rabbit Stew

Wild rabbit, jointed (my butcher jointed mine for me)
1 or 2 rashers of fatty bacon
Onion
Fresh thyme (plus I used some thyme jelly)
Parsnips
Mushrooms
Chicken stock
Cornflour
Garlic mashed potato, to serve

 

  1. Chop the bacon into chunks and fry on a low heat to render the fat out.  Remove the pieces of bacon from the pan and reserve.  Brown the rabbit in the fat for a couple of minutes and remove from the pan.
  2. Dice the onion and fry in the bacon fat.  Add the thyme, dice the parsnips and mushrooms and fry off until the veg is starting to soften.
  3. Add the bacon and rabbit back into the pan and pour over the stock.  Cover and cook on a very low heat for about an hour.
  4. Mix a spoonful of cornflour with cold water.  Remove the rabbit from the pan and keep warm.  Add the cornflour to the stock and stir continuously until the sauce has thickened.  Serve the rabbit immediately on top of a mountain of mashed potato and covered with the sauce.

 

 

Aubergine and Mushroom in Fragrant Peanut Sauce

Hi there

I went a bit nuts on the veg front when I went shopping this week – there was so much different stuff I fancied buying, so last night it seemed to make a lot of sense to have a vegetarian dinner.  What I made was a mish-mash of stuff, but actually turned out to be pretty tasty.  Despite the long list of ingredients, it was also really quick to prepare, which can only be a bonus in my book.

My one piece of advice would be: don’t forget to put the rice on.  We ended up having disappointing cous cous, because it’s quicker to cook than rice.  Tonight we’re having the leftovers with added chicken and rice.  Or at least, that’s the plan.

Much love

Gemma xx

Aubergine and Mushroom in Fragrant Peanut Sauce

Y’know, imagine rice instead of cous cous…

Aubergine
Mushrooms
Leek
Red pepper
Root ginger
1-2 cloves garlic
Lemongrass
Kaffir lime leaves
Cumin
Ground coriander
Ground ginger
Toasted sesame oil
Crunchy peanut butter
Coconut milk
Some kind of sweetener – honey, brown sugar or agave syrup
Soy sauce
Fish sauce (omit if vegetarian)
Nuts (I used soy nuts)

  1. Chop all the veg into chunky pieces and place in a bowl.  Peel the root ginger and garlic, grate on a microplane and add to the veg.  Bruise the lemongrass, chop finely and add to the veg.  Crumble in a couple of kaffir lime leaves, and sprinkle on a generous amount of cumin, coriander and ginger.  Add a couple of spoons of sesame oil and stir really well to ensure everything is evenly distributed.  Leave to marinade for a couple of hours.
  2. Heat a wok until it is really hot.  Throw the veg into the pan and immediately turn down to a medium/low temperature.  Stir fry for several minutes, until the aubergine is cooked in the middle.  Cover the wok.
  3. In the marinade bowl, stir together a couple of heaped spoons of peanut butter with enough coconut milk to form a fairly thick sauce consistency.  Add a teaspoon of your preferred sweetener and a good dash each of soy and fish sauce.
  4. Add the sauce to the veg and stir well.  Once hot, adjust the sauce as required by adding more soy sauce, fish sauce or sugar.  Cook for a few minutes for the sauce to reduce slightly.
  5. Stir through the nuts at the last minute, and serve on a bed of rice.