Welcome back to My Week In Food and what a day to start; Stir Up Sunday and my recipe for Roast Turkey, Chestnut and Sausage Stuffing, and Gravy is on the cover of a Christmas food supplement in today’s Observer. If you don’t have a copy, I found it very easily by googling my name and Christmas and it popped up on www.theguardian.com. You can find my family Christmas pudding recipe (that’s the Stir Up Sunday bit) here: Traditional Christmas Pudding with an evocative illustration by my son www.henry-john.com.
It’s up in good time for my household, The B is off out before coffee for a copy of the Observer and to join the queue at my favourite local Farmers Market in the farmyard of Grove Park Farm House and behind Chiswick House off the 316 to Richmond. It’s open 10am-2pm and they’ve instigated a one way system, closing off one of the alleys into the yard, only allowing a few people at a time in to shop. In my experience, it’s best to go early or late but going late means there will be no chance of snapping up skirt steak and there is the risk of missing out on a chicken. In fact, The B gets the last chicken and buys apples for me to make apple sauce, bread – there is a particularly good bread stall here – and several £1 bags of eating apples and pears so I can make Thane Prince’s Orchard Chutney from her book Perfect Preserves. I am still on my feet fussing about by the time he returns, peeling and par-boiling potatoes to roast, getting the rolled shoulder of pork (thank you www.mackenbrothers.co.uk) out of the fridge in plenty of time so it can come up to temperature before it’s settled over chopped onion and masses of sage from the garden, the skin smeared with oil to encourage good crackling. We have a large joint – just under 1.4kg, or 5lbs in old money, so there will be plenty of time for the skin to crisp into crackling. It cooked perfectly at 220C for 15 minutes then 200C for an hour, resting (uncovered) for 20 minutes or so. I lifted the meat to rest onto a carving platter, so I could make gravy in the roasting tin. I like to leave it tilted for a few minutes so the fat settles on top in a small area, making it easy to scoop most of it out of the pan. A dusting of flour then a splash of white wine and sprout and carrot cooking water is bubbled up, the whole lot strained into a small pan to re-heat just before serving. I’d scratched the par-boiled potatoes with a fork to make good ridges to catch the heat and get nicely crusty and they, like the serving dishes and plates are left in the fading heat of the oven until we were ready to eat. I really can’t remember the last time I had a roast Sunday lunch and it felt terribly grown up and very nice to flop in front of the fire with the papers (on this occasion enjoying seeing my name in print and discovering so many other delicious sounding Christmas recipes, particularly cheesy potatoes from Nigel Slater) but make a mental note to ask for extra crackling when buying a pork joint; we ate all the piece stretched over the rolled meat, neatly secured with butcher’s string. We could have eaten as much again.
Supper was thick slices of lavishly buttered brown levain bread from the Farmers Market, a very fine slab cut from a huge loaf nearly the size of my ironing board. Great crust, good dense but sweet and rich dough, lovely with mature Cheddar and the last of last year’s pickled onions, reminding me that I need to get on with making more for Christmas.
While I wait for the kettle to boil for my mug of honey and cider vinegar and The B’s lemon and ginger, I start measuring out all the ingredients I’ll need to make Orchard Chutney. Pears, apples, onions, garlic, ginger, sugar and cider vinegar, all lined up. First up, I spend a chilly morning with the kitchen door open while I skin a mound of shallots to leave under a layer of salt for 24 hours. I couldn’t find pickling onions, but small shallots are a good alternative and work perfectly for Pickled Onions. They take a couple of weeks for the pickling vinegar to soak through the onions, preferably longer, before they are ready to eat. The longer they’re left the better if, like my family, you like your pickled onions hot, hot, hot. I cook up the pickling liquid too and put both outside overnight. I also sort out some of my stash of jam jars, soaking off the labels and matching the right top to the right jar; a chore that takes hours. I then settle down to making the chutney, peeling, coring, chopping and piling everything into my biggest saucepan. It smells delicious as it cooks and it’s soon time for the good bit, when the dark, spicy mix is spooned into hot, sterilized jam jars.
One of the joys of roasting a large joint is leftovers. I love cold cuts in sandwiches with very fresh bread but for supper, with jacket potatoes and a crisp salad, so that’s what we are having tonight. I don’t carve the pork as thinly and neatly as The B (the best carver I know) but do my best and fan the meat out on a platter attractively. We have my super-quick, super-crusty potatoes (recipe Lamb Chops, Diamond Jackets and Minted Pea Puree) with fridge cold butter to melt amongst the diamonds, mouth tinglingly-hot English mustard and more of that cold apple sauce. The salad is quickly pickled cucumber – lengthways halved cucumber, seeds scooped out with a teaspoon, then sliced and splashed with cider vinegar – with Cos lettuce hearts and peas.
Up early and making a Thai-inspired crunchy salad with a few scraps of roast pork leftovers for al desko lunches but I’m really saving the lion’s share of the meat for a hot dish we will have on Thursday night. Thai Pork Salad is mainly vegetables with a healthy dressing of lime juice, hint of toasted sesame oil (a useful storecupboard embellishment for Thai and Japanese-inspired dishes) and a few slivers of pork. Red cabbage, carrot, coriander, sweet chilli sauce, lime juice, toasted sesame oil, add a hard-boiled egg to The B’s carry out in case it’s not satisfying enough. Searching in my hopelessly ordered photo file, I found a lovely photo of a big chunky soup called Leek, Lardons and Butter Bean Soup but couldn’t find the recipe, so I made it again. I added the rest of my jar of giant Brindisa Navarrico brand butter beans to softened onion and garlic add diced tomato and parsley at the end, delicious with a griddled veal chop; such sweet, tender meat and always a major treat.
A whole Vacherin Mont d’Or cooked in the oven until molten is another treat at the time of the year. Traditionally, it’s served with cornichons and boiled ratte-style French potatoes to swipe up the creamy, hot cheese but I decided to make cornichon-heavy Red Slaw, an old favourite coleslaw and home made oven chips instead. The cheese just needs about 15 minutes in a hot oven, it’s wooden lid and plastic stretch removed, the top pierced with a skewer and topped up with white wine or something stronger if you like; it will soak into the cheese in a fondue kind of way. Cut and remove the cheese skin and serve with a spoon; it is unbelievably good.
For supper tonight I’m making Pork and Chorizo Cocido with Garbanzos a variation on a favourite dish; a spicy chorizo flavoured stew. I make it with fresh and roast chicken, with squid, with sausages but tonight with leftover roast pork. The background goo in this one is diced carrot, chopped tomatoes and stock, with chickpeas and coriander or flat leaf parsley added at the end. Sometimes I add fresh diced red pepper or piquillo from a jar and sometimes I add separately boiled new potatoes and/or peas towards the end of cooking. It’s a forgiving dish that is relatively quick to make, always goes down well and fills the house with good food smells. As I happened to have the dregs of a bottle of red wine, I simmering the diced pork in the wine until thoroughly soaked in and that’s why the meat in the photo looks so rosy and dark. Pork is always dodgy in stews and needs far longer, gentler cooking that expected and it’s the same with this leftover roast pork. The result is rich, spicy and colourful, perfect on its own with some crusty bread and a beer or large glass of red wine.
Can’t believe a week has gone by since we tucked into Quo Vadis at Home (https://quovadis.bignight.app/) and how I wish I had ordered a second helping for today. I’ve been stuck in front of my computer all day, just breaking off to make soup for lunch. The fridge gave up carrots and cabbage and I found myself reaching for a potato and onion, thinking in terms of potage bonne femme, a homely, quickly made chunky soup. It so happened that my phial of saffron was on the kitchen surface and I pulled down caraway and chilli flakes to take this soup in a different direction with all three. With a generous squeeze of lemon, this Spicy Saffron Vegetable Soup was just the right sort of soup for a chilly, dull day; every spoonful slightly different, the potato almost cooked to a slop, cabbage and carrot adding a hint of tension to the bite, the broth subtle but with a snap and back taste of caraway and chilli.
Turns out Friday night is pizza night, the first time for ages and our favourite local option is Pizza Express. It was Jim Haynes who first took me to Pizza Express way back in the late sixties when I worked for him at The Arts Lab in Drury Lane. We’d walk to Coptic Street or Soho (Coptic was Peter Boizot’s second branch; the first, opened in 1965 was Wardour Street). Jim, would eat one and then order a second and was very serious about devouring the pizza before the crust had a chance to flop. He taught me the way to succeed, is to cut a triangular slice as if cutting a cake, and roll it from the point then eat with your fingers. In those days Enzo Apicella’s distinctive black and white with red design, big plate glass windows, the diamond lino floor tiles and original logo was unbelievably modern. We all used to eat the basic pizza of tomato, basil and mozzarella (back in those days Peter sourced the first and only London mozzarella supplier; he was a stickler for authenticity wanting to replicate the pizzas he’d come to love while living in Rome) but eventually, many years later, transferred to American Hot with extra peperoni, via a short segue to St Daniele prosciutto and rocket. Tonight’s wasn’t the greatest offering, but we wolfed it down far too fast to beat the take-out-wilting-pizza damage.
I’m very happy to say The Barrister loves a Saturday morning food shop outing and has come to know and appreciate the superb shops (and nice staff) we have on Turnham Green Terrace. Since the first lockdown and resultant one or two-in-a-shop and inevitable queues, Hounslow council has done a good job of testing the patience of the shops and its customers with a fierce road re-design. What used to be a moderately heavy traffic route, with plenty of parking slots down part of one side of the road and a constant pattern of short parking visits for shopping en route for somewhere else, it became a ghost town. Until a week or so ago, car drivers were fined if they drove down the Terrace, let alone park in it. (It is unsure whether this will resume when nearby road words are completed round the corner on the High Road). The parking bays have been cordoned off and there is a new patience required to shop here. Like everywhere, shopping is long and slow. I’ve discovered that if I ring in an order to the fish shop (www.coventgardenfishmongers.co.uk) it’s a queue-beater. There have always been queues at the butcher (www.mackenbrothers.co.uk), particularly in the build up to Christmas week (horrendous and right round the block) but everyone is friendly, the shopkeepers amazingly calm, polite and welcoming. Conversation centres on the mess Hounslow have made of Chiswick roads, the High Road in particular and the fact that the whole of Chiswick has been gridlocked since Hounslow carved up the High Road in favour of bicycles. (The latest, a letter tells me, is littering what’s left of our parking with lock up bike cages; why, who needs them). This morning, The B is keen to get in the butcher’s queue. It is almost exactly a year since he was on a long case in Trinidad (now continued on zoom) and his return lunch (a Saturday) by request was kidneys. We both love them but as you’ll read in my recipe for Devilled Kidneys on Toast it was a visit to a Cotswolds pub that set new standards for this classic way of cooking them. My innovation is to serve the kidneys over what I call fried toast made on a hot griddle. Both sides are buttered and cooked golden. Unlike toast, this griddle-fried toast doesn’t go soggy, so there is crunch with every mouthful. Very, very delicious and an idea to use for so many other pile ups; fried egg, roast tomatoes, mushrooms etc. He also craved duck (and made the mistake of asking for a nice duck, at which Noel (for it was he, always quick of tongue) announced to the male-full shop; ‘gentleman here says he’s like a nice duck’, at which they all fell about like school boys and Noel told a story that The B will happily tell you if you ask. It concerns a woman ordering a cock pheasant). The B took over roasting the duck (in a high-sided roasting tin resting on a lift-out rack for 60 mins at 200C), then rest for a good 15 minutes before carving. I par-boiled, cooled and diced potatoes to fry slowly in some of the first leach of duck fat and softened leek pennies in butter, adding boiled petits pois. This turned out to be a very good combination and one I’d recommend for an omelette. I drained off most of the duck fat for Ron (lateron) and made gravy with a dusting of flour, splash of white wine, spoonful of redcurrant jelly and chicken stock I happened to have in the fridge. A feast and plenty of leftovers for Roast Duck Shepherd’s Pie perhaps, or an impromptu oriental noodle dish.