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Monday, 29 August 2016

Individual Pork Pies

Having dabbled with making home made pork pies a few times now, I have finally decided I am happy with this recipe. Making individual pork pies is easier than one large raised pie - they take less time to cook and are more likely to be cooked all the way to the middle, and it is possible to cut one open and taste it to check it is OK before putting it out there for the audience to enjoy. To my taste, a pork pie just isn't the same without white pepper and mace but it is worth frying a little filling off to check the seasoning before assembling the pies. Remember that the jelly will add a little more salt to the overall flavour. I use bone broth to add the essential jelly component and this works really well as it is naturally set when cold. Alternatively use half a stock cube in 300 ml of boiling water and 2 small sheets of gelatine. Making the pies in a muffin tin is easy, although I am informed that hand raising the pies is straight forward too, pulling the larger circle of pastry up over a ball of meat before putting the lid on it to hold it in place. I may try that next time. Removing the pies from the tin can be a little difficult if not well greased so not having this element would be handy. Once chilled, serve as part of a buffet or lunch or as a snack with a good dollop of chutney.

For the pastry:
256g plain flour
55g strong white flour
55g unsalted butter
65g lard
1 tsp salt
135ml boiling water
1 egg

For the filling:
500g pork - mixture of pork belly and pork shoulder
2 rashers of bacon
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
Ground black pepper
A good pinch of ground mace
Bone broth (or stock and gelatine)

Using scissors, cut the pork up into small pieces and place in a bowl. Snip up the bacon and add to the pork. Add the seasoning. To check the seasoning, fry a small amount of the filling until cooked and taste. Preheat oven to 190°C and grease a 12 hole muffin tin. Next, put the flour in a bowl and add the butter. Rub the butter into the flour to form a breadcrumb texture. Put the lard in a measuring jug and microwave until melted. Add the salt to the lard and then measure in the boiling water. Pour this mixture onto the flour and stir with a spoon and then your hands to form a dough. Leave to cool until just cool enough to handle then cut into two pieces - one about two thirds of the pastry, and one about a third. Roll out the bigger piece of dough to about 3mm thick. Cut out 12 x 10cm circles of dough and line each muffin hole with the circles of pastry. Spoon the meat mixture into the muffin tin until each pastry case is well filled. Roll out the remaining piece of pastry and cut out 12 x 6cm circles. Place a circle of pastry onto each pie to form a lid and press gently to seal the pie shut. Use a skewer to make a hole in each lid about 5mm in diameter. Brush each pie with beaten egg then bake the pies for 50 minutes until golden brown. Once the pies are cooked, heat the bone broth to turn it into liquid. Use a small funnel to help you pour broth into each pie until it just overflows. Once the pies are cool, place in the fridge to chill over night or for a couple of hours. Once chilled, remove the pies from the muffin tin and chill until ready to eat.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Tasty Mediterranean stuffing

Having got back from the plot later than anticipated on Sunday evening but loaded up with seasonal vegetables, I was faced with the issue of  having to quickly decide what vegan version of a roast dinner I could cook. My vegan step-daughter has been living with us since mid-June now and I have been cooking her dinner every night so vegan cooking is not an issue in itself - just an added task. When making dinner starts with going out to gather the ingredients, it is very much slow food anyway.

I glanced around at the ingredients I had to hand, both freshly picked and supermarket bought, and quickly decided that my best bet would be a stuffed roasted butternut squash. Having cut the rounded bottom end off it and hollowed out the seed cavity, I rummaged around for something suitable to stuff it with. Being August the seasonal vegetables have a Mediterranean slant to them so I decided these were the flavours to aim for. Courgette, mushrooms, red onion, red pepper, garlic and herbs de provenance came together within a few minutes to create a delicious smelling stuffing. This I spooned into the hollow butternut, leaving a few spoonfuls that wouldn't quite fit. Smelling so tasty, it seemed a shame to waste it but it was just too much to fit in yet there wasn't enough to make another meal out of it.

With the squash in the oven, it was time to turn my attention to the meat for the rest of the family. A small rolled lamb shoulder sat in the roasting tin, neatly held together by four elastic bands. Then it occurred to me that it was just crying out to be stuffed, so I took the elastic off it, unrolled it, spooned in the last of the stuffing and reassembled it.

An hour later dinner was ready - an impressive stuffed roast butternut squash for the vegan, and roast lamb with a Mediterranean stuffing for the rest of us. A roast with the taste of summer for everyone.

Mediterranean Stuffing

1 slice wholemeal bread
About 1/3 of a courgette
1 small red onion
About 2 tablespoons Quorn mince (optional)
4-6 mushrooms
1-2 cloves of garlic
A dash of sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon tomato puree
Freshly ground black pepper
Garlic salt
Dried herb de provenance
1/4 red pepper
3 basil leaves

Cut the crusts off the slice of bread and put it into a small food processor and blitz to create crumbs. Put into a bowl. Peel the courgette and blitz into fine pieces. Set aside and repeat for the onion, mushroom and garlic. Heat some oil in a frying pan and put in the courgette and onion pieces and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the Quorn if using and fry for another minute to thaw out. Next add the mushrooms and after another couple of minutes add the garlic and fry for one more minute. Add the sweet chilli sauce, tomato puree, garlic salt, pepper and dried herbs and stir well to combine. Spoon the mixture into the bowl with breadcrumbs. Blitz the red pepper with the basil then add this to the bowl. Give everything a good stir then use to stuff vegetables or meat.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Mr Fitz - he knows what he is doing!

I first came across Mr Fitz as a food blogger, writing under the name of Cooking With Mr Fitz. He has, however, got his finger in many pies - quite literally! Indeed, it is hard to keep track of everything he does or to realise that he is necessarily behind a particular business name. It is obvious that he is behind The Fabulous Mr and Mrs Fitz - a hot food caterer specialising in all natural hog roasts and barbecues. He is also involved in Simply Samosas and Pie Club GB and Hog Roast GB. But that is probably the mere tip of the ice-berg as he seems to spend most of his time gallivanting around the world in exotic locations catering for VIPs and, it seems, lounging poolside in his mirrored sunglasses!

To use the word "confident" about Mr Fitz is to understate him. He is very much assured that he has food on offer that everyone would want to eat. I have read about and heard about his foodie delights for a while now but it was not until the weekend that I got my first chance to taste some. Often when I have a stall at a food event I take a packed lunch with me - partly because I don't know if I will get a moment to leave my stall to find lunch and partly to stop myself spending the profits before they are earned. But on this occasion I really wanted to see if there was bite behind his bark and if his food was really as fabulous as he would have you believe.

I started my taste experience mid-morning on a reccy-mission to see what I might fancy for lunch. Mr Fitz was enthusing at this point about the new and exclusive Hawaiian buns that he had created in collaboration with Geoff from Geoff's Real Artisan Bread. Geoff is a patient man and passionate about his bread and I know he has worked with other local hot food business, such as Good Times Cafe, to not just offer them locally sourced artisan bread for their businesses but to ensure it is the best bread for their needs. What Mr Fitz needed was a pineapple bread bun to suit his Cajun spiced pork. That morning the buns were ready for their first taste test complete with the pork and all the trimmings and it was Geoff who was to have the first taste. I, on the other hand, tentatively tried a piece of the pork on its own as I am a bit of a spice-wimp and didn't want to ruin my lunch with something overly spiced. It, of course, wasn't overly spiced but it also wasn't lunchtime so I returned to my stall to serve my customers.

When lunchtime did arrive, I found myself fancying the hog roast sausage that Mr Fitz had on offer. I felt I should have been more adventurous and maybe tried the spicy Spanish but it's the spice thing again. Regular readers of my blog will know that I love a good sausage and this was a good sausage - meaty but not overly chunky, seasoned but not overly peppered or overwhelmed with herbs. This, I think, is a sausage I want to buy to cook at home for the family.

Later, whilst wandering past the stall again I overheard Lesley from Kandola's Kitchen making the discovery that amidst this apparent meat-feast Mr Fitz was also able to offer her a vegan option. This brought Debbie from Minkiemoo Bakery out too and later I heard Lesley trying to extract the vegan burger recipe from Mr Fitz she had enjoyed it so much. Like his first name, there are just some things Mr Fitz is not willing to share.

It was 3 o'clock when the afternoon munchies set in again so I returned to Mr Fitz to sample his pulled barbecue pork. This he assembled into one of the now famous Hawaiian buns and as we exchanged banter he piled in some coleslaw made from various vegetables from his friend's allotment and then dolloped in some sort of creamy dressing followed by something green. He didn't ask, he just did. But he was right. Whatever it was, the combinations worked perfectly and it was delicious. Having consumed the bun, I went back to tell him.

"Mr Fitz," I said, "it seems you know what you are doing."

He reeled off a whole load of places and people he has catered for, being the well traveled caterer he is, but said that he was pleased to get my seal of approval too. I felt I should have given him a badge to formalise my approval but sadly I hadn't prepared one!

After a lovely day at the summer food market, enjoying the general good humored love of local food, it was time to head home. As I slowly edged my way past the collapsing stalls, Mr Fitz leaned down to my open car window and handed me a warm silver foil bundle.

"Have you got a family who would enjoy eating this?" he asked as he passed me the barbecued pulled pork. Silly question.

So, this afternoon, in the absence of Geoff and his Hawaiian buns, I made some steamed boa buns and reheated the pulled pork. This I served alongside strips of homegrown carrot and cucumber, chunks of beetroot and lettuce, cooked French beans and some sauted potatoes. Needless to say, the meal was fabulous!