Smoked Salmon en Croute

The Somerset smoking adventures continue…

Paid another flying visit to my friends in Somerset last weekend and was rewarded with a side of maple-smoked cold salmon.  I love the care packages I get to come home with…. they also sent me back with smoked cheese and butter… so I’m also working on a smoked cheese scones recipe.

They’ve upgraded the kit – the smoking bin now features a hot plate in place of the charcoal we were using. This allows for a more controlled temperature to smoulder the wood shavings.  It also means that we can start trialling hot-smoking!

After about two hours we were too hungry to wait any more so we pulled out the two sides of salmon we were hot-smoking and fried them instead.  Served with an “everything but the kitchen sink” salad and a potato salad, they were yummy.

We left the two sides of salmon that we were cold-smoking in the smoker all night, and pulled them out early the next morning.  The texture was right, but the flavour just wasn’t strong enough.  We suspect that the problem was that they’d only been brined for 3 hours… clearly we need to brine for longer.

Once home, I pondered recipes for a side of slightly smoked salmon.  Hannah, the awesome housemate, commented that her mum would do something with pastry and the idea for salmon en croute took root.

Cooking the salmon seemed to activate the smoked flavour – it came through much more strongly than when the fish was raw.  But the taste of salmon still came through, and it was perfectly cooked.  It took three of us three days to finish the meal, but it was worth it.  As good as it was when it was first pulled out of the oven, it was even better cold the next day!


Smoked Salmon en Croute
Makes: 6 portions  Takes: 1 hour

Ingredients:
1 side of maple-smoked salmon
1 tbsp. cooking oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
4 large florets of broccoli
salt & pepper to taste
200ml tablespoon crème fraiche
375g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
85g watercress

Place the onion and celery in a medium sized saucepan or frying pan and place over a medium heat.  Pour over the tablespoon of cooking oil.  Sauté lightly until the onion turns translucent.

Snip the tips of the broccoli curd off and into the pan, leaving the majority of the stems to be discarded.  Fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the broccoli is just cooked.  Add the salt and pepper to the pan, followed by a tablespoon of crème fraiche.

Stir the crème fraiche through until it has fully mingled with the vegetables.  Remove from the heat and allow the filling to fully cool.

Preheat your oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.  Roll out your pastry to a rough rectangle shape.  Score a deep line down the length of the salmon in the middle, then flip the salmon over so that it closes like a book.

Place the salmon just off to the centre of your rolled out pastry so that when it is closed it will be exactly in the middle.  Spoon the chilled filling along the length of the salmon on one of the sides, and then close the salmon over it.

Wrap the pastry around the salmon, crimping the ends and tucking the edges underneath.  Brush with the beaten egg to glaze.  Cover a large baking tray with greaseproof paper, and place the wrapped salmon on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden.  If the pastry starts to turn too brown, cover with tin foil.

Meanwhile, make a watercress sauce by blitzing the remaining crème fraiche in a food processor with the water cress.  Pour into a bowl and chill until the salmon is ready.

Serve the salmon hot, with steamed broccoli, garlic mushrooms and the watercress sauce.  Keep going back for leftovers until it’s all gone.

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Egg Kothu Parotta

I was introduced to this dish by an old friend of mine, and I immediately begged her for the recipe so that I could share it with everyone I know. Fragrant and delicious, this simple meal lingers lovingly on the palate, delivering delicate layers of flavour long after the pan has been scraped clean of leftovers.

It’s not the kind of meal that you’ll find in an English Indian restaurant, although it’s extremely popular in Southern India. In fact, it’s commonly believed there that the very best Kothu Parotta comes from street food stands rather than restaurants. In parts of Pakistan it’s served for breakfast, but I find it makes a perfect weekday supper; quick and easy to make, and leaving only one pan to wash up.

For those of you (like me) who have an aversion to extremely spicy food, fear not. This is remarkably mild, and you can make it more so by decreasing the amount of chilli powder used to a mere quarter of a teaspoon. As for the more esoteric ingredients; paratha can be found in the frozen section of any good supermarket, but you may have to resort to the internet to find chaat masala (in fact, if anyone does know where I can buy it locally, please get in contact – my supply is running low!).


Egg Kothu Parotta
Makes: 4 servings   Takes: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 medium onions, finely chopped Egg Kothu Parotta 006.JPG
2 dozen dry curry leaves
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 green chilli, deseeded & finely chopped
250g baby plum tomatoes
1 tsp chaat masala
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 packet of paratha, cut into pieces
1 large bunch coriander, finely chopped
5 eggs

Pour the oil into a large frying pan (I use my wok) and place over a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until the seeds begin to pop. Add the garlic, ginger, onion and curry leaves to the pan and fry gently until the onion turns translucent.

Add the chilli and tomatoes to the pan and cook for a few minutes or until the tomatoes begin to soften. Add the chaat masala, garam masala, chilli powder and salt to the frying pan and stir well until thoroughly mixed.

Add the paratha to the pan, along with the majority of the coriander, and cook until all of the paratha has fully cooked (it will no longer resemble dough). Add the eggs to the pan and stir continuously until the egg has all cooked. Sprinkle the reserved coriander on top and serve immediately with a side of raitha.

On Top of Spaghetti…

… all covered in cheese.  I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed.

If you were ever a child (and I think that most of us were) then you’ve probably heard at least the first verse of the popular folk song “On Top of Spaghetti”.  When my nephews came to stay for a week over the summer holidays, my eldest nephew constantly sang it for about two days until I introduced them both to Ging Gang Goolie.  They’re seven and five so that went down well.

With that brain worm firmly stuck in my head I announced to the boys that we were going to make spaghetti meatballs.  The deal when they come to my house is that I’ll cook their favourite meals, but they have to help.  Granny does the washing up.

I had a packet of Heck’s chicken Italia sausages in the fridge that needed eating, so instead of going to the butcher’s for some pork sausage meat, I slid the sausages out of their cases and used those as the basis of the meatballs.  Because they’re made from chicken it gives the meatballs a lighter and more delicate texture than pork, and allows the Italian flavours to shine through.

For a sauce we made my famous Italian “splodge”, which is basically made from whatever vegetables are in the fridge, a tin of tomatoes and Italian herbs and spices.  I’ve been making it for so many years that I no longer even have to think about what I’m doing, it’s just second nature to me.

The boys really enjoyed making the meatballs, although they were both a little uncertain about getting their hands into the mixture and rolling it into balls.  Once I’d got them started though, it was difficult to persuade them to stop!

Mum told me when we were about halfway through cooking the meal that the boys don’t like meatballs.  You can imagine my response!  They delighted in proving her wrong and both of them went back for seconds.

All in all, it was a quick and fun recipe that got us all involved in the kitchen.  Plus it tasted great too!


On Top of Spaghetti Meatballs
Feeds: 4    Takes: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
340g Heck chicken Italia sausages meat1
35g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
1 tbsp tomato puree
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
Dash of Lea & Perrins
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 red pepper, finely sliced
200g dried spaghetti
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Remove the sausages from their casing and place in a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs to the bowl and mash the sausage innards and crumbs together with a fork.  Using your hands, scoop up pieces of the meat mixture and form into evenly sized balls.

Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil. When the oil has heated, add the meatballs to the pan.  Fry the meatballs for 5-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until they’ve browned on all sides.

Remove the meatballs from the frying pan and set aside. Add the chopped onion, crushed garlic, and diced celery to the frying pan and sauté until the onion turns translucent.

Tip the onion, garlic, and oil into a medium saucepan and add the tomato puree. Place the saucepan over a medium heat.  Mix the puree in with a wooden spoon, then add the chopped tomatoes to the pan.  Stir well.

Add a dash of Lea & Perrins, and the paprika, basil and oregano.  If you happen to drop the entire container of basil into the sauce, don’t panic.  Sam did the exact same thing and it still tasted amazing.

Stir the new ingredients into the tomato sauce and simmer for five minutes.  Add the meatballs and red pepper to the saucepan, stir them in and allow to continue simmering, stirring occasionally.

Cook your spaghetti according to the packet instructions and then drain. Serve with the meatballs, smothered in cheese.

Hedgerow Harvests: Elderberry Ideas

I woke up the other day with the first autumn mist rolling past my bedroom window. As much as I love this time of year, I can’t help mourning the loss of summer as we slip inexorably toward winter. The chill in the air was a bittersweet reminder to make the most of the sunshine while it lasts.

The mist burned off by ten o’clock, and turned into a beautiful day. But it was a definite kick in the butt! I’ve been saying for a while that I want try my hand at my Grandmother’s recipe for blackberry and elderberry wine, and this year’s chance to do that was slipping away.

Elderberries weren’t a problem (I managed to stumble into an eldertopia my first year in Exeter and have been harvesting the flowers every spring since) but blackberries were more difficult. My local parks had been picked clean, so I had to go further afield. Fortunately, I don’t have far to go to find fields. Blog - Field

A quick diversion in the car with a 5 litre food tub got me the elderberries, and a sunny countryside ramble after work not only put me in a good mood, it also netted me those blackberries. As an added bonus, I found damsons, rosehips and sloes on my travels. I grabbed the damsons, and left the rosehips and sloes for another day.

My hands were purple up to the elbow by the time I finished raking the elderberries off the stalk with a fork (because the stalks and unripe berries are mildly poisonous, they have to be discarded). Ten minutes work with a pair of secateurs left me with 915 grams of elderberries.

I needed a kilo to make a gallon of wine.

So I halved the quantities, and made half a gallon of wine. Well, when I say made, I mean there’s a tub of blackberries and elderberries fermenting in the kitchen. That left me with 415g of elderberries sitting the fridge, waiting to be used.

A friend of mine says she can hear mistreated plants screaming. I’m like that with food. It calls to me. Begs not to go to waste.

Research for recipes online turned up various syrups and cordials, a couple of mentions that it was good with game (duh!) and a few liqueur recipes. I’d already decided to try a test pot of rumtopf, and a damson and elderberry jam sounds good to me.

With a couple of cooking apples from the allotment, I could make an apple, blackberry and elderberry crumble. But elderberries pack a powerful punch and a little often goes a long way. I could easily find myself with berries to spare.

Throwing the floor open to suggestions led to baking ideas beyond crumble. Suddenly I had a list of things to try, and even less time to implement them…

Blog - Elder Trio

A word of warning when harvesting elderberries; make sure that you’re not picking roadside berries, and that you have the permission of the landowner. You also need to ensure that when you’re stripping the berries from the stalk (best done with a fork), that you discard all of the stalk and any unripe berries. Both of these are mildly poisonous and may upset delicate tummies. The ripe berries are fine to eat as long as they’re cooked.


Elderberry Muffins
“Better than blueberry!”
Makes: 6              Takes:   50 minutes

195 plain flour Blog - Elderberry Muffins
150g granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
80ml rapeseed oil
1 large egg
100ml milk
150g ripe elderberries, removed from stalks
1 tbsp soft brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Grease a large muffin tin, and line with greaseproof paper. Grab a medium bowl and tip in the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir the dry ingredients together.

Measure the rapeseed oil into a large measuring jug. You can use other oils if you don’t have rapeseed, but make sure that they’re fairly tasteless, don’t use olive oil as the flavour is far too strong. Rapeseed has a slightly nutty flavour which compliments the elderberries well.

Crack the egg into the measuring jug and then measure the milk into the jog. Whisk the wet ingredients together until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until the batter is just starting to come together. Don’t overmix the batter or the muffins will refuse to rise.

Add the elderberries to the bowl and softly fold them into the batter with a knife or spoon. Divide the batter equally between the lined muffin holes and sprinkle the soft brown sugar over the tops.

Place the muffins in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins have risen and are golden brown. You can test them by inserting a wooden or metal skewer into one of the cakes; if it comes out clean, they’re cooked!

Remove the muffins from the oven. Take them out of the muffin tin and cool them on a wire rack. They can be eaten hot or cold and will store for up to three days in an airtight container.


Elderberry, Blackberry & Apple Crumble
A sugarless version, ideal for diabetics and those wishing to lose weight!
Makes: 6              Takes 50 minutes

6 Bramley apples Blog - ElderCrumble
100g blackberries
65g elderberries, destalked
150g muesli
50g low fat margarine

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Core and slice four of the apples. Place them in a medium saucepan with a small amount of water, cover and place of a medium heat. Stew for five minutes.

Core the remaining apples and cut them into chunks. Grab a deep ovenproof dish and pour the stewed apples into it. Scatter the uncooked apples over the stewed ones and press them into the mixture. Strew the blackberries over the apples, followed by the elderberries.

Mix the muesli and margarine together until well combined and then use it to top the fruit. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top is browned and the fruit juices are bubbling through.  Serve hot.


Damson & Elderberry Jam
Oh, God, so good!
Makes: 2.5lb of jam        Takes: 30 minutes

400g damsons
100g elderberries
150ml water
Juice of 1 lemon
750g sugar
45ml Certo pectin

Wash your jam jars and pop them in the oven on its lowest setting to sterilise. Pop two saucers in the freezer. Wash the fruit and place in a medium sized pan with the water.

Stir until the fruit and water boil. Cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and sugar and stir well to mix. Turn up the heat to full and bring to a roiling boil, stirring constantly.

Boil hard for one minute and remove from the heat. Stir in the Certo pectin, and skim to remove any damson stones and scum.

Take the jars out of the oven and carefully but quickly pour the jam into the jars. Cover and allow to cool. Store in a cool dark place.


I need more elderberries…

An Introduction

Hi!  I’m Kizzy.

When I was 12, after I managed to reduce an innocent casserole to a charcoal briquette, my home economics teacher told me in front of the whole class that I’d never be a good cook.  When I got home, I cried.  While comforting me, my mum suggested that I prove her wrong.  Inspired, I returned to the classroom and promptly churned out a truly disgusting Christmas cake.

It was the start of a lifelong journey to improve my cooking abilities.  Over the years I’ve had some spectacular successes, and countless more inedible atrocities.  Despite every setback my love of good food has stayed with me, pushing me to go further, learn more, and experiment with unfamiliar techniques and ingredients.

That same love affair with food led me to relocate over a hundred miles to Devon, seduced by the lure of fresh, high quality ingredients and some truly sublime restaurants and producers.  This blog aims to chart my progress as a cook.  My failures and my triumphs, experimental recipes, new techniques, reviews of suppliers, books and festivals.  I hope you enjoy it.

Bon appetit!