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Port cranberry and orange sauce

It's that time of year again and cranberries are in demand for both Christmas and Thanksgiving. I like to add some ruby port and orange to this sauce to add a depth of flavour which compliments the tartness of the cranberries. You can make this sauce a couple of weeks in advance of when it's needed, it allows the flavours to mellow and blend together. It also sets really well like a jam, so when using it as a sauce all you need to do is to warm it up in a pan to loosen the mixture

300g fresh cranberries
100ml ruby port
Zest of 1 orange
50ml orange juice
75g sugar
25g honey

Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil
Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the cranberries have broken down and it forms a thick sauce

If making in the Magimix CookExpert
Place all ingredients into the induction bowl and set at 2A/95c for 15min

Once cooked allow the mixture to cool and pour into a sterilised jar
This will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks
You can also serve it immediately if cooking on the day

Tastes of home part 10 - Beef, marrowbone and Guinness stew

I've always liked this recipe as it has a deep flavour, but I wanted to take it a step further and enrich the dish. Using marrowbone is a great way of doing this, it has its own unique flavour and adds so much more. It thickens and enriches the sauce. My preference is to buy shin of beef with the bone attached, that way the marrow just melts into the stew as it cooks or you can buy it separately and just add it in. 

500g beef cheek or shin of beef cut into 1 inch cubes
100g marrow bone scraped out of the bone and roughly chopped
2 onions finely chopped
1 medium sized carrot finely chopped
1 stick celery finely chopped
400ml Guinness
200ml beef stock
20g tomato puree
5g brown sugar
Bouquet garni with thyme, rosemary and bay leaf
10ml oil for frying

Salt and pepper to taste
5ml Worcestershire sauce

Place the onions, carrot and celery into a heavy based or cast iron Dutch oven with the oil and fry on a low heat until all ingredients are softened
Add the flour and tomato puree and cook out for 1-2 mins
Remove the veg to a plate and turning up the heat, add a little more oil, fry off the beef, ensuring you brown the pieces on all sides
Add the veg back to the pan, lower the heat and add the Guinness, stock and herbs, stir the veg and meat to mix it well

At this stage you can add the marrowbone to the stew
To cook on the BBQ, set it up for indirect cooking at 130c and place the griddle on, then place the pan, lid on, on the griddle, and cook for 3 hours

If cooking using a conventional method then place a lid on the pan and cook on a low heat on your stove top or in a low oven at 120c (fan) 130c (normal) for 3 hours

To finish add the Worcestershire sauce and sugar
Season to taste before serving

I like to serve this with a nice creamy mash or herby suet dumplings

For the dumplings

100g self raising flour
5g baking powder
50g suet
5g fresh thyme leaves
5g fresh rosemary chopped
5g parsely
2g onion powder
2g garlic powder
30g breadcrumbs
1 egg beaten
30ml water
Pinch of salt

Mix all the dry ingredients together and add the egg and water and bring together until it forms a loose dough.
Form the mixture into small balls about the size of an egg and add to the stew about 30 mins before the stew is ready 
Make sure they are well spaced out as they will double in size as they cook
I like to cook these with the lid off as the tops of the dumplings will crisp as they cook

This recipe was prepared using the round Dutch Oven from Big Green Egg contact your local Big Green Dealer for more information.

Magimix Cook Expert

So it's a few months into testing and you'll probably want to know how I'm finding it. Having this piece of equipment has required a little change of mindset on my behalf. While I was happily using the Magimix food processor for many years, the range of recipes that I could use was limited to what you could chop and puree, or in making pastry, pastes and pasta. The induction facility has opened things up a bit more. Many recipes that I would happily cook on the hob can now be cooked in the machine without me having to stand over the pot and stir.

The machine is a powerful beast with a good sturdy base which means it does not rattle all over the place when performing it's duty. The processor works very quickly and efficiently, it does however require some worktop space, but with the breadth of functionality it has, it will get used on a regular basis.

If you are time poor then this is a useful tool to have, stir fries and dishes that require a lot of chopping can be prepared in minutes with the variety of blades. Soups can be cooked all the way through and then pureed or creamed (depending on how smooth you like it). I do like the soup functionality as it is such a joy to throw ingredients in and 30 minutes later without having to raise a finger you have perfectly smooth soup. Smoothies are quick and easy and a good texture, it compares well to my Waring pro blender and is much quicker. I'm also a big fan of the steam function too, which is great for veg, fish and meat and I've started cooking a lot of dim sum recipes with this facility. 

I had reservations about chucking things into the machine and pushing a few buttons and leaving it to it's business, it's not in my nature. I'm classically trained and used to making a lot of traditional sauces such as creme anglaise, buerre blanc and bechamel by hand, you need to ensure the temperature of the ingredients and the pan are strictly regulated and ingredients are added bit by bit to ensure the right texture and it doesn't split or go lumpy.

So for me throwing all the ingredients in at once like I did for on my first time with a bechamel sauce was anathema to how I cook. Traditionally you need to ensure that the flour is cooked out first otherwise you get a pappy taste with the sauce. With the CookExpert I got a lovely smooth sauce, no floury texture or flavour. A lot of thought has gone into how recipes are traditionally prepared and how the induction facility should behave in producing a good end result.

For the first month I did spend my time hovering over the machine and stopping it at intervals just to check how a dish was progressing as I really wanted to ensure that as it was my own recipe that it was performing as I would expect. With a few tweaks to functionality I got to to the point where I could throw the ingredients in and just leave it to do its job. I also like the fact that I can use the rinse function to quickly clean the metal bowl, so I can use it again for another dish, rather than having to spend ages washing it by hand or running it through the dishwasher. 

The induction facility holds its temperature well but I did find there were slight fluctuations between the bottom and top of the liquid of a few degrees. If you do decide to use it for confit, you will need to give it some time for the temperature to stabilise. It does take a few minutes to get up to temperature when cooking or when using the steam function, so bear that in mind when cooking items that require a set amount of time. 

My only reservations have sprung from the meringues that it produces. The texture of the whisked egg whites is very loose and while this is suitable for plain unshaped meringues or macaroons, it doesn't hold its shape very well when piping the meringue. It doesn't give much in the way of volume, so two egg whites produce a lot less than for example, when I whisk them with my Kitchen Aid. With the Kitchen Aid, I also get a firmer texture which means it holds its shape better. This however, is probably down to the fact the Kitchen Aid has an open bowl and a different type of whisk.

I also find that with the rubber ring in the lid of the metal bowl that you have to be careful when removing the lid after cooking as it has a propensity to drip everywhere. Doesn't seem to matter how careful I am when doing so. So be careful when taking the lid off. I would advise being especially careful when using the steam function and also when you have made jams as the liquid collected in the lid will be hot.

When cooking stews, I like to brown the meat, which I prefer to do on a flat based pan, the shape of the induction bowl makes this a little problematic. It's only really suitable for casseroles with chunks of meat rather than whole cuts such as shanks and oxtail. I would advise browning the meat first before adding it to the induction bowl. Also when making stews you can chop the vegetables with the CookExpert which is fine but you do get the odd chunk even if you have scraped down the sides to make sure it's chopped evenly. Another thing to bear in mind is that it does hold the moisture in really well if you leave the small lid on. So if you are cooking stews, chillies or ragus that require a nice thick consistency, you will need to remove the small lid before the end of cooking to allow it to reduce a little.

With any kitchen gadget it takes a while to get familiar with functionality, Many people have expressed a preference for a knob you can turn rather than a button functionality as this has. To be honest if you use it enough the functionality will become instinctive. 

The metal bowl can be used for a lot of the same functionality (pastries, cakes, pasta, pastes) as the food processor bowl, but my preference is for using the food processor as the mixture comes out a lot easier as I can remove the blade quickly. With the shape of the metal bowl and blades it can be a bit fiddly getting those last bits of dough or mixture out. There is a specially designed spatula which helps, but it is still a faff.

Lets also address the elephant in the room, the price, it retails at just under €1200, which for any kitchen gadget is not cheap. You do get quite a lot for your money, induction cooking, food processor, chopping blades, cookbook, spatulas and scales. It also combines the efforts of gadgets such as induction hob, blender and stand mixer into one and you get a quality piece of equipment which will last. Like any Kitchen gadget you will need to question how much will you use it in order to get good value out of it.

For me it's become indispensable in the kitchen, I am really enjoying the additional induction functionality on top of the food processor. Lots of dishes that I would normally cook on the hob now get cooked in the Cook Expert. I also love the fact there is an app as well as the cookbook, so I can quickly look up recipes on my phone. So the question is, would I recommend this? I certainly would, I find the additional cooking functionality really useful. For the novice cook it will make certain dishes and sauces a lot easier to master and for the more accomplished cook, give you more time to attempt more complicated dishes.

If you'd like more information go to http://www.magimix.nl/producten/VOORBEREIDEN/Kokende-Keukenmachine/Cook-Expert/


Yorkshire puddings

 Saying I love Yorkshire puddings would be an understatement. A traditional Sunday roast accompaniment, but I have been known to have these with gravy for breakfast. I cannot get enough of them. They are not too difficult to make, follow a few simple rules when doing so and they will turn out just fine. This batter recipe can also be used for traditional recipes such as toad in the hole.

This recipe makes 6 Yorkshires, to make more just double the base quantity.

120g flour
2 eggs
300ml milk
Pinch of salt
70ml oil or preferably beef dripping to cook the puddings 

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the salt
Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into the middle
Add about 50ml of milk
Start to whisk the eggs and milk, use small strokes and do not try and incorporate the flour all at once, otherwise you'll end up with a lumpy mixture
Add the rest of the milk gradually until you have a smooth and thin mixture
Place to one side for 1-2 hours to allow the batter to rest, do not place in the fridge, it needs to be room temperature
Heat the oven to 200c
Take a muffin tin and place 5ml of dripping/oil in each compartment
Place in the oven and heat until the dripping/oil starts sizzling
Remove from the oven and quickly pour the batter into each compartment, filling about 3/4 of the way up
Place back in the oven and cook for 20 - 25 minutes until the puddings are risen and golden brown
At no point during the cooking process should you open the oven, it will cause the Yorskshire puddings to fall flat


What's in season - November

The clocks have gone back and Halloween is now past us. Thoughts turn to thanksgiving and Christmas as we turn the corner on a new month. November sees the days and nights getting colder. On the plus side, the larder is not all bare and there is plenty of wonderful ingredients to be had. Truffles in particular are now in season adding a little luxury to the autumn months.


Vegetables
Artichoke, beetroot, butternut squash, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, horseradish, jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes (maincrop), pumpkin, salsify, shallots, swede, truffles, turnips, watercress, wild mushrooms

Fruit

Apples, clementines, cranberries, passion fruit, pears, pomegranate, quince, satsumas

Nuts and herbs

Almonds, brazil nuts, chestnuts, cob nuts, hazelnuts, rosemary, sage, walnuts

Meat and Game
Beef, duck, goose, grouse, guinea fowl, hare, lamb, mallard, partridge, pheasant, rabbit, turkey, venison, wood pigeon

Fish
Clams, cod, coley, crab, dab, dover sole, gurnard, haddock, halibut, hake, lemon sole, lobster, mackerel, monkfish, mussels, oysters, plaice, pollack, red mullet, sea bass (wild), sea bream, skate, squid, turbot, winkles


For more information visit Eat the Seasons

Apple jelly with calvados and vanilla creme anglaise

I was given some Marlene apples from Italy while ago. Now I've never used these before and was curious about these as they are from the South Tyrol and have an IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta, Indication of Geographic Protection) which indicates that they are certified from that area. I didn't want to do the usual recipes such as chutney, tart and crumble but when I tasted the apples and found they were very juicy. I thought to myself the recipe has to be something with the juice, how about jelly? These apples did yield a surprising amount of juice so were perfect for this recipe.

With this recipe I used 7 sheets of gelatine for 700ml of apple juice. I would advise you to check the brand of gelatine that you are using as each brand will vary in setting point and size of sheet. I used the Dr Oetker brand as that was what was available in the shop. This makes 4 jellies.

6 Marlene apples, you can also use royal gala or pink lady juiced, you may need more to get the same volume (approx 700ml juice) 
7 sheets of gelatine
5ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup

Soak the gelatin sheets in water for 15 minutes
In a pan heat the apple juice gently for about 10 minutes on a medium heat
Squeeze out the excess water from the sheets and add to the apple juice and stir through until dissolved
Pour into oiled jelly moulds or ramekins and allow to set in the fridge for 6 hours minimum

Creme Anglaise
150ml cream
30ml calvados
50g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 vanilla pod seeds removed or 2ml vanilla extract

Place the cream in a pan on a moderate heat, add the vanilla pod and seeds and infuse for 5-7 minutes

In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar till frothy
Remove the vanilla pod from the cream
Slowly add the warm cream to the egg and sugar and mix together
Pour back into the pan and on a low heat, add the calvdos and continue to stir until the mixture starts to thicken or coats the back of the spoon

Sweetcorn and bacon chowder

This is a real comfort food soup; thick, creamy and chunky. There's a lovely flavour contrast between the salty smoky bacon and sweetness of the corn. This recipe will work just as well with tinned corn as it does with fresh, but its nice to make the most of the fresh sweetcorn when it is available. 

A little tip when cutting the kernels off the cob, don't start too high up, that way they don't fly off everywhere. Once you've done one half just turn the cob the other way round and remove the rest. 

70g smoked bacon cut into small cubes
4 ears of corn, husks removed and kernels removed or one 400g tin sweetcorn kernels
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely chopped
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
750ml chicken stock
10g cornflour mixed with 20ml cold milk to thicken the soup
30 ml creme fraiche
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying

Sauté the onion and garlic on a low heat until soft
Add the bacon and cook for a further 5 minutes
Add the stock, sweetcorn kernels and potatoes and bring to the boil briefly, lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes or until the potato is tender
To finish the soup thicken with the corn flour and stir until it starts to thicken on a medium heat
Once thickened turn off the heat, add the creme fraiche and stir through
Season to taste