Wednesday, 23 November 2011

What on Earth do you do with a Quince (apart from make jelly)?!

Never turn down free fruit in the pub.
This has been an increasingly pressing question on my mind recently; a week ago I had a snifter with Dad after work in the local (he took great offence when I suggested it might be better to turn up at the office for said snifter a little later than the ten to five he usually pops up at) and he presented me with a bag of quinces. Which I found quite amusing. What was even more amusing was that I asked my friend Sophie who was also present if she'd like a quince. She rolled her eyes and said 'Don't even get me started on bloody QUINCES!!!' Apparently my Dad wasn't the only parent trying to offload the produce of this years glut. So anyway, I didn't fancy jelly and couldn't be bothered to make membranillo to go with my favourite cheese Manchego (but maybe I will have to be bothered as I just found THREE MORE QUINCES in my fruit bowl aaarrgghh!). I was a bit stuck, and then I had a brilliant moment, when I stared at the duck legs in the fridge, flicked open Clarissa-Two-Fat-Ladies' game book and there it was: duck with quince. It was meant to be. That was a long winded intro, apologies. Clarissa's recipe involves stuffing a whole Mallard with wedges of quince, so I adapted it a bit, a little apprehensive, as I had never, ever, cooked with quince, but where would be the fun in doing the same old thing every day? I was on holiday with the rentals in a heavenly cottage in Cornwall and was feeling brave.

A rather English affair.
Feeds four. Pre-heat the oven to 180c, or if using an Aga for the first time ever like I was, erm, do nothing. Peel two quinces, or is it two quince? Who cares. They are quite tough to peel, or maybe it was the holiday cottage peeler. Or maybe holiday wine. Get a baking tray big enough to hold 4 duck legs, cut the quince into quarters and cut the core out. Toss in a little olive oil with seasoning and lay the duck legs over the quince int he baking tray. Season the duck and rub with the tiniest smidgeon of olive oil. Roast for approx 1 hour, maybe a bit less, the quince is very clever and turns pink when cooked. It should be tender like a cooked potato and the duck wants to be crispy-skinned and nice and tender. Baste it every now and again to help keep it moist. Nothing worse than a tough duck. Except raw quince. Serve with whatever you like, I did roasted potato, onion and courgette slices. It was gert lush, even if I do say so myself.

I was genuinely worried about this supper but was happily pleased with the results. The duck was tender and stringy, and the quince was not too sweet, not too soggy, and had a very subtle bitterness that made me think of black olives. And there wasn't a runcible spoon in sight!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Pan Fried Chicken with a sort of Salsa Verde

Pan fried chicken? What else are you going to fry it in? I always get annoyed when I see that on a menu, what a load of poncey nonsense. Anyway, I was feeling a little poncey and 'Bashed out chicken breast with a made up green sauce' didn't sound very cool, so there you are. Breast is usually the last bit of a chicken I reach for, so often less flavoursome and dry compared to a juicy thigh, or whole leg, but then I remembered I quite like them bashed out, dredged in flour and fried. In a pan. OBVIOUSLY.

Feeds one. Finely chop any combination (equal-ish amounts of herbs) of the following: parsley, basil, coriander, a teaspoon of capers and a small clove of garlic. Mix in a glug of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and season. Bash a skinless chicken breast until mostly flattened and the same thickness throughout. Dust with some seasoned flour. Get a frying pan nice and hot with a splash of olive oil. Fry the chicken on each side for about 3 or  4 minutes until golden and cooked through. Serve with the sauce blobbed on top of the chicken, which could sit on some steamed spinach, with some sliced roasted courgettes and potatoes on the side. If you want them. Or you could pan fry them if you are feeling poncey.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Pork Chops with Broad Bean Mash & Garlic Butter

Petits pois and broad beans are the only veg I buy frozen, and they are so useful, never going brown and limp in the fridge, always ready for me, sometimes escaping from the bag which I haven't secured properly, but otherwise thoroughly reliable. Both lend themselves well to being mushed up once cooked. Hello?? Mushy peas!!! This is a speedy week night recipe to enliven the humble pork chop.
Get your chops round that

Feeds 2. Slice up a couple of potatoes and roast in the oven in a slick of olive oil. Cook two big handfuls of broad beans or peas or a combination of the two for about 4 minutes in salted boiling water then drain. Smash up a big clove of garlic in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt to make a paste, then stir in a tbsp soft butter. Get a frying pan nice and hot, rub a little olive oil on two pork chops and season them. Fry in the pan (you could grill them) so they are nicely coloured on each side (about 4 minutes each side if fairly thick) but not dry and over-cooked. Meanwhile, wizz up the peas/beans, a clove of garlic, juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper, a glug of extra virgin olive oil and a bit of chili if you fancy. Serve the pork on top of the mash, with the butter blobbed on top and the tatties on the side.

You probably shouldn't go out after this, you may get funny looks. Maybe because you look funny, but probably because you stink of garlic.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

'Mountain' Pheasant with Herbs & Potatoes (Who knew pheasies liked mountain climbing?)

How nice to have a young plump little pheasant to cook, rather than the poor birds I pull out of the freezer, a year after putting them in there, looking a little sorry for themselves thanks to my rather lacking skills in the plucking department. I was at a friend's house and we had wanted to cook dinner, drink wine and generally catch up together. Pheasant was on the menu, hurrah.

This is loosely based on a recipe I found ages ago for Mountain Pheasant, I have no idea what it has to do with mountains, but it's damn tasty. I would say use a nice plump youngen for it as you will roast it rather than casserole the pheasant, as I normally do. This is lovely and simple and is insanely tasty, as often the most simple things are.

Feeds two if using a smallish bird. Pre-heat the oven to 190. Spatchcock the pheasant by placing it breast side down with the tail towards you. Take some sturdy scissors and cut along one side of the back bone, then the other side so the backbone comes away. Turn the bird over and basically flatten by pushing down with your hands so it now has a bit of a 'run-over' appearance. That is spatchcocking. In a casserole/deep dish, mix up a glass of white wine, a couple of peeled potatoes, quartered, two onions, quartered, three cloves of chopped garlic, a lemon, quartered, and a small handful of each of the following: mint, thyme, sage and rosemary, and a big glug of olive oil. Season the bird and rub with a dribble of oil, lay over the veg and roast for about 45 minutes, until the pheasant is cooked and the rest is nicely cooked.

To serve, cut the bird in half using a nice big knife, and serve with all the veg, lemon and juices, and an amazing celariac salad that my friend Hannah wizzed up from her husband's posh French cookery book. Then drink all her Black Stump and wobble off home, happy and content.