Friday, 31 December 2010

NEW YEAR'S EVE SUPPER

The end is the year is nigh and it's time to reflect on what has been - and what might be. Demon Cook is just over a year old, and I have a small, loyal following - and a bigger following whenever I mentioned "Nigella" and "buns" in the same paragraph! I have not yet had the success I dream of: my blog going viral and becoming the next Belle de Jour, or me as the next Julie Powell (of Julie, Julia fame), the inspiration of a surprisingly popular film about cooking and piano-playing, starring Renee Zellweger (with Demon Cook standing in as the "hand double" to do the close up cooking and/or piano-playing scenes)..... Ah, one can but dream!

So, it's New Year's Eve - again. Funny how it comes round every year, ain't it? I am rather "Bah, humbug!" about New Year's Eve (as I am about Christmas). I feel it is over-rated, and I make a point of not celebrating it and being curmudgeonly about it by going to bed deliberately early, only to be woken at midnight by fireworks. Many years ago, when we were all pre-children and able to party like it's 1999, we went to a fancy-dress murder mystery New Year's party with friends in Battersea. The men elected to take the female roles, and over dinner (the crime and its solving quickly forgotten in the sea of champagne cocktails) they all compared their "comedy breasts". Later, much later, we denuded the Christmas tree, took it into the street, set fire to it, and danced around it in some kind of strange South London pagan ritual. Needless to say, we all had very sore heads the next morning/lunchtime. New Year's celebrations rather went out of the window with the arrival of children and babysitters only being available for a king's ransom on the appointed night. Then, a few years ago, when friends Olga and Simon lived next door, we would go to their house to celebrate, rocking up at around 10pm, drinking steadily 'til after midnight, and then tottering the short distance back to our house. The second year we did this, I recall being so drunk that I flung my arms around Olga's neck and declared "I love you! You're the best neighbour I've ever had!!". Hmm. The things we betray when in our cups!

Meanwhile, back to the food. Tonight it's a simple dinner with good friends Jacky and Nick, and after we've eaten and drunk all we can, we'll play Scrabble and Nick will, once again, try and prove his theory that "he/she who starts wins". I had some shin of pork in the freezer, stashed away before Christmas, and I've made it into "Osso bucco", not the classic Osso Bucco alla Milanese which has a rich tomato sauce, but a very simple stew made with wine, stock, sage and orange peel. The trick is to cook it slowly so that the marrow seeps from the bones: it gives the sauce a gorgeous satiny sheen and flavour. To accompany the stew, a simply saffron and wine risotto. In fact, it won't be an accompaniment as I'm going to serve it ahead of the stew, as a "primo" dish, in the manner of a proper Italian meal. The Osso Bucco will be served with a fresh green salad, gremolata, and homemade focaccia.

It's finger-food to start: olives, stuffed Peppadew peppers, onion bhajis, smoked salmon on blinis, and the Sainted Delia's 'feuilles de brick' pastry canapes (find the recipe here), which are incredibly easy to make, and simply delicious. The Cava is chilling in the fridge, and I must remember to open the Creme de Mur (blackberry liqueur) which I brought back from France, to make Kir Royale.

Manchego & Membrillo, Salami Milano

Feuilles de Brick canapes

Blinis with smoked salmon and faux caviar

For pudding, it's Jo's Chocolate Tart. I'm calling it Jo's Tart because I ate this delicious and elegant chocolate tart when I was staying at Chalet JoJo in France last week, and this is a nod to Jo and her wonderful hospitality and cooking. It is the most beautiful chocolate tart I have ever eaten, redolent of the sort of thing you can find in a classy French patisserie, with a crisp pastry case and the silkiest, smoothest chocolate filling you can imagine. Under the chocolate, is a thin layer of raspberry jam, whose sharpness perfectly cuts into the sweetness of the chocolate.

Recipes follow..... Happy New Year, readers. I'm off to bathe, dress and primp and prime myself for supper.

Osso Bucco with White Wine and Sage
 
Allow 2 osso bucci per person (pork - or veal, if you're feeling extravagant and naughty)
Olive oil
Flour for dusting
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper
200 ml Chicken or beef stock
200 ml White wine
Fresh sage leaves, torn
A few strips of orange peel

Heat some olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Dust the meat with flour, and fry until golden brown. Set aside. Meanwhile, fry the onion and garlic gently until soft, then add the meat, fresh sage, orange peel, stock and wine. Check seasoning. Bring up to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. I usually cook osso bucco for at least 2 hours, or until the meat is falling from the bone and the marrow has seeped into the sauce. Top up the liquid if necessary. Serve with fluffy polenta, mashed potato, or risotto.


Jo's Chocolate Tart

You can either make individual tartlettes or a large tart.

250g sweet pastry (a roll if cheating)
200g dark chocolate
250ml liquid cream
40g butter
150g raspberry or apricot jam (I used a seedless raspberry jam)
Icing sugar
Cocoa powder

Put the oven on at 180.  Put the pastry into the tart case/s and prick with fork. Bake blind for 15 mins, then take paper off and put back into the oven for 5 mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Put jam into saucepan, heat up and then spread over the pastry, leave to cool

Put half of the cream into a saucepan and once near boiling add the chocolate. Take off heat and add the remaining cream and the butter. If it starts to look granular, beat with a whisk to achieve smooth consistency. Pour over jammed pastry and put into the fridge to chill and set.
Just before serving, sprinkle over cocoa powder and icing sugar in a design you like.


Jo's Chocolate Tart takes pride of place!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

MOUNTAIN FOOD

Mention the Alps and food in the same breath and most people immediately think of fondue, that warming, comforting dish of melted cheese, with or without the addition of alcohol, into which one dips chunks of  bread.

If you break fondue down to "component level", it is easy to see this is a dish constructed from leftovers: old, hard bits of cheese, and stale bread. Like many other dishes from this region, fondue is "make do" food in many ways - using up bits and pieces left in the larder. The landscape has a direct influence on the food: in the old days, before the roads were made good and kept passable during the winter, it was important for the indigenous population to feed themselves without having to traipse down the mountain every day to shop. Thus, much of the food of this region is made to last through the hard winter: cured and preserved meats, like salami and air-dried ham; bottled fruits and vegetables; pickles.

Visiting this region in the winter, you also realise that this food is meant to sustain. Coming off the slopes the other day, my face raw from the cold, despite a generous application of Dr Hauschka's Rose Creme, I was grateful for a warming dish of baked cheese, potatoes, onions, bacon and cream. This, of course, is Tartiflette, another classic dish from the region, made from sliced potatoes layered with Reblochon cheese and bacon. It is a meal in itself and needs nothing more than a fresh green salad as an accompaniment.

Another dish I enjoyed during my week in the Alps was 'Berthoud', Abondance cheese baked in a gratin dish and served with charcuterie and pickles. It's filling and hearty, and really sets you up for a long walk in the snow (as I did after lunch in a hotel overlooking the beautiful Lake Montriond) or an afternoon on the slopes.
Lake Montriond

Classic fondue is a mixture of Emmental and Beaufort cheese (similar to Gruyere), Savoie wine, garlic and Kirsch. It's a very convivial dish to enjoy with friends, with everyone dipping their long forks into the bubbling cheese mixture, and passing around the accompaniments (like Berthoud, charcuterie and pickles). These days, it is possible to buy a ready-made fondue cheese mix from the supermarket (I've seen this in Waitrose, and you can definitely buy it in France), but Fondue is not difficult to make. You do need a fondue set, however, as the little burner under the bowl keeps the cheese at an even temperature.

The local spirit is Génépi, a digestif made from several Alpine plants. It is related to Grappa and Schnapps, and, like the food, warms the body after time spent out in the snow. The vibrant green liqueur Chartreuse is the commercial version, but many restaurant owners and residents make their own. Go into a local produce shop in Les Gets, and you will find row upon row of different flavours of Genepi, including aniseed, forest fruits and violet. Another local liqueur is made from chestnuts, and makes a delicious Kir Royale when added to champagne or cava.

On my last day in the Alps, I ate a dish called Ecorce de Sapin, a whole Camembert-type cheese baked and served with boiled potatoes, charcuterie, salad and pickles. I drank a glass of very cold Rose wine with it - entirely delicious!
Ecorce de Sapin


Click this link to find recipes for Tartiflette, Berthoud and Fondue.
La Chamade - a fine restaurant in Morzine

Monday, 20 December 2010

DEMON COOK IS ON HOLIDAY

I am away in the French Alps, enjoying the cuisine of the Haute-Savoie - and a bit of skiing for good measure.

Demon Cook will return with a full food and snow report after the holiday.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

SYLVABELLA

I suppose this recipe should come under the heading "Legacy" which Nigella Lawson uses in her book Nigella Bites. For her, "legacy" recipes are those handed down from her mother or grandmother. This recipe, for a very rich chocolate mousse dessert, was not exactly handed down to me by my mother, as I do not have the recipe in any of my "scrapbooks" of recipes, but it definitely brings back memories of my childhood, as it was one of my mother's 'signature' puddings, and I do remember helping her make it. I also recall that it was almost better the day after it was made, when it had spent a night in the fridge and the chocolate (milk and dark) and butter had solidified, and the boudoir fingers were soggy with alcohol.... It's a grand dessert, rich and naughty, and should be reserved for special occasions. I would make it for an alternative Christmas pudding, if I were cooking Christmas dinner (which I am not!).

After a bit of digging on the internet, I found this recipe on a French recipe site. It's the closest I can find to my mum's version. A reader of this blog contacted me to ask if I had a recipe, and now I can say I do! (Please note: this is my translation from the French!)

SYLVABELLA 

75 g dark chocolate  
75 g milk chocolate
20 boudoir fingers, soaked in Tia Maria or Baileys or something similar

2 eggs beaten
120 g caster sugar
50 g coca
300 g butter 

Melt the chocolates and the butter in a bain-marie or on a low setting in the microwave. Do not allow it to bubble or, worse, burn. Mix the eggs, sugar and cocoa together and stir until fully combined. Line a nice bowl or pudding basin with cling-film or foil and arrange the boudoir fingers around the edge. Mix the melted choocolate and butter with the egg, sugar and cocoa mixture and then pour the whole lot into the bowl. Leave the chill in the fridge. Serve with whipped or Chantilly cream. 

Keep refridgerated after serving - as I said, it is good the day after it's made....

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEMON COOK!

Yes, Demon Cook is a tender one year old. This time last year, it was cold and I was blogging about eating steak and kidney pie in The Guinea, a wonderful old-fashioned pub in Mayfair. Today it is also cold - much colder than this time last year - and later I will be blogging about curry, porridge and other comfort foods.

Meanwhile, I owe a debt of thanks to my dear friend Jacky - for it is she! - who coined the title of this blog (she also calls me Demon Shopper). She has also been one of the main inspirations for it, as she was always requesting my recipes, or asking me how I'd made something. Since most of my recipes are begged, borrowed or stolen from others, a cookbook seemed a bit of a con - and very possibly plagiaristic - so a blog it is. As readers can probably tell, I enjoy the activity of writing about food almost as much as I enjoy the activity of cooking and eating it. Someone, who sampled my monkfish paella over lunch one day, once asked me, "How come you're such a good cook? Did your mother teach you?" to which I answered, "Well, yes, in a way. I learnt a lot from standing next to her in the kitchen." But the real reason why I'm a good cook is because I am very, very greedy. And very interested in food. From the moment I wake in the morning, I am thinking about lunch and, better still, what to have for dinner. I love trying out new recipes, revisiting old ones, hunting out ingredients, and visiting food shops, especially foreign markets and supermarkets, delis, and other interesting suppliers of provenders.

Demon Cook will continue in the same vein, but I am very open to suggestions from readers for improvements or additions to the blog.

Meanwhile, happy reading, and, more importantly, happy eating!