Water Melon Cake

Water Melon Cake

Prep:           40 mins.

Cooking:      Zero.

Course:        Dessert

Serves:         Lots

Rating:         3:  Fiddly

 

Find:

  • One large water melon; whole
  • Fondant icing
  • Icing sugar
  • Sharp shallow-bladed knife – filleting knife or similar

Method:

  • Cut top & bottom from large water melon.
  • Cut side away in a circular fashion to leave a cake shape.
  • Dry with kitchen roll, dust with icing sugar and apply fondant icing to sides and top.
  • Apply fruit for decoration. Copious amounts of fruit.
  • Cut slices…..and see the faces of those who had no idea!

Caramelised fresh oranges:

Caramelised fresh oranges:

Prep:           20 mins.

Cooking:      10 mins.

Course:        Dessert

Serves:         Depends on how many oranges you can eat.  1 each?

Rating:         3:  Moderate – Segmenting the oranges can be fiddly, but a skill that can be quite quickly learnt……..

Find:

  • 6-8 large oranges
  • 250g/9oz white/golden caster sugar
  • 200ml/7fl oz hot water

Method:

  • Pare the zest from two oranges and cut into very fine shreds (or do it the easy way if you have a zester).
  • Heat a small pan of water until boiling, drop the orange zest into the water and simmer for two minutes. Drain through a sieve into a small bowl. You want to retain the blanched zest, not the water.
  • Peel all the oranges by cutting the skin, white pith and inner skin away, to reveal the flesh of the orange.
  • Using a very sharp knife, cut the first segment out of the orange, sliding the knife down between the skin and its flesh on either side then easing it out. Carry on working your way around the orange, cutting out the segments. (You may prefer to use a small knife for this, or a large 10” chef’s knife – your choice).
  • Put the segments and juice into a shallow serving bowl. Repeat the process with the remaining oranges until all are segmented.
  • Heat a wide, heavy-based pan over a moderate heat. Add the sugar and leave for a few minutes, keeping a careful eye over it, until the sugar begins to melt. Don’t stir. Restrain yourself and do no more than tip and tilt the pan to get the sugar to melt evenly.
  • Once the sugar is liquid, let it bubble gently, then more strongly, until it begins to brown (this may take as little as 2-3 minutes), still tilting and swirling the pan occasionally.
  • Once the sugar has caramelised to a hazelnut brown, pour the measured hot water into the pan. Do this at arm’s length, wearing an oven glove (hard hat, overalls & goggles…..oh yes, and wellies!). But seriously, take care with hot sugar syrup. Be very careful, as the caramel will ‘hit and spiss’ when you first add the water.
  • Swirl and stir the caramel syrup and turn the heat to low. Drop in the blanched shreds of orange zest and leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the zest is translucent. You may need to add a bit more water if the caramel thickens too much.
  • Pour the hot syrup and shreds over the orange segments and leave to cool.

Lime & Ginger Posset with a warm blueberry topping:

Photo:  Chris Wiles Photgraphy

Lime & Ginger Posset with a warm blueberry topping:

Another incredible dessert.   Again, not too difficult to make, certainly very impressive to see and absolutely gorgeous to consume.

Prep:           20 mins.

Cooking:      10 mins.

Course:        Dessert

Serves:         4-6

Rating:         3:  Moderate – but so much worth doing – and a bit more!

NOTE:  This is rich pud, so don’t make the servings too large.  If they want more, they can just have another one!

Find:

  • 1 pt double cream
  • 5 oz caster sugar
  • 2-3 balls of stem ginger – grated
  • Zest and juice of 4 limes (you need 4 fl oz of juice)
  • Handful of blueberries
  • Drizzle of juice from stem ginger jar
  • A non-stick saucepan & wooden spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Hand balloon whisk
  • Lemon juicer (I know that they are limes – but you still use a lemon juicer….. even for oranges!)
  • Grate the zest of the limes into a bowl.
  • Juice the limes using a normal juicer – see Tricks’n’Tips – and pour the juice into a mug or a bowl ready for use. No pips please; we’re British.
  • Mix the cream, lime zest, stem ginger & sugar in the non-stick saucepan. SLOWLY heat over a low to medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring continuously to avoid the cream ‘catching’ on the side of the pan – we don’t want any brown bits floating around in this beautifully pastel-coloured pud.
  • Gently boil for 3 mins. Take off heat and pour into a warmed mixing bowl that has been carefully placed on a dampened cloth or piece of kitchen roll to stop it skating about on the kitchen surface.  You are not whisking in the pan as it is a non-stick pan and it’s a metal whisk….. you want the pan to stay non-stick!
  • Whisk in the lime juice, slowly pouring the juice in as the cream is whisked.
  • When all the lime juice is in, pick up the bowl and give the whisking some effort – remember that what you are doing is introducing air to make the pud light and airy.
  • Serve in glasses or ramekins. Set overnight in fridge (minimum 3-5 hrs).
  • Just before serving, put blueberries & ginger juice in a pan & simmer for a couple of mins until berries have softened.
  • Spoon over the cold posset and serve.

YUM & YO!

Lemon Posset:

Lemon Posset:

An incredible dessert.   Not too difficult to make, impressive to see, gorgeous to consume.

Prep:           20 mins.

Cooking:      20 mins.

Course:        Dessert

Serves:         4-6

Rating:         3:  Moderate – but so much worth doing

Find:

  • 1 pt double cream
  • 5 oz caster sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • A few fresh raspberries/redcurrants/other soft fruits
  • A fancy desert biscuit roll/stick
  • A non-stick saucepan & wooden spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Hand balloon whisk
  • Lemon juicer

METHOD:

  • Juice the lemons using a normal juicer – see Tricks’n’Tips – and pour the juice into a mug or a bowl ready for use. No pips please; we’re British, but you can include the lemon flesh.
  • Mix the cream & sugar in the non-stick saucepan. SLOWLY heat over a low to medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring continuously to avoid the cream ‘catching’ on the side of the pan – we don’t want any brown bits floating around in this beautifully pastel-coloured pud.
  • Gently boil for 3 mins. Time it.  Take off heat and either keep it in the saucepan or pour into a warmed mixing bowl that has been carefully placed on a dampened cloth or piece of kitchen roll to stop it skating about on the kitchen surface.
  • Whisk in lemon juice, slowly pouring the juice in as the cream is whisked.
  • When all the lemon juice is in, if you are using a balloon whisk, pick up the bowl and give the whisking some effort – remember that what you are doing is introducing air to make the pud light and airy. If you are using an electric whisk, turn up the speed.
  • Serve in glasses or ramekins. Set overnight in fridge (3-5 hrs).
  • Serve with raspberries/soft fruit and a desert biscuit of some kind, or pour a very thin layer of raspberry coulis over the surface – or all of them. Don’t make the layer too thick as it will detract from the lemon flavour.

Game Pie:

Game Pie:

As Pheasant Pie, but:

Also find:

  • 1 wild rabbit with its coat off

Method:

  • When preparing the pheasant, also simmer the rabbit saddle (that is the back of the rabbit containing the two loins – the main meat content) for an hour or so in the stock.
  • Afterwards, take the loins off the backbone, break it up (not slice it) and throw in with the processed pheasant meat. Continue with the pie as above but in a larger pie dish (or even make two).
  • The front and back legs of the rabbit can be casseroled separately and scoffed off the bone the next day.
  • Or eat it with a mustard sauce.

Pheasant pie:

Pheasant pie:

This serves between 6 and 8 people, with veg, etc.

One thing I like to do is beating for a local shoot.  It takes no great skill, as such, all you need to be able to do is follow instructions and make a noise when told to.  Common sense, really.  In the months before and just after Christmas there are shoots all over the UK needing people to beat for them (See the NOBS website).  You get very little pay for your physical efforts – but the birds are worth the walk.  Some (tight-arsed) shoots will just give you a brace (a pair; one cock bird and one hen) and some will permit you to take more.  One shoot that I have regularly beaten for hands me 3 brace occasionally as well as the meagre pay.  This makes the day well worth the effort.  Of course, the birds do come with their coats on and their innards in place, but a quiet word with another of the beaters may get them to help you ‘process’ the birds quite quickly after being hung to let the meat mature for about 5-8 days. 

Of course, you could learn how to do it and DIY. 

I don’t fart about with plucking; I simply skin ‘em and gut ‘em.  It’s quicker, easier and makes less mess.  Anyway, as I normally harvest the breasts and casserole the rest, the skin is redundant. 

Serving pheasant pie to your guests could be quite prestigious, so will really impress everyone with your abilities to survive and succeed.   Of course, you mustn’t accidentally serve it to any extreme animal-rights/anti-hunt people, ‘cos that’s the way to get your sweetmeats squashed (look it up on the net).

Prep:       50-ish mins, but needs to be done the day before.

Cooking: 60 + 40 mins.

Course:   Main (smallish)

Serves:    6

Rating:    3:  Moderate – it takes a long time to get everything ready,

but each stage is moderately easy.

Find:-

  • 1 brace pheasants
  • 2 cans Campbell’s Chicken & White Wine condensed soup
  • Frozen sweetcorn
  • 1 pack puff pastry
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Mushrooms if you have them
  • Provencal mixed herbs
  • Seasonings
  • milk or eggwash for pastry top (see Tricks’n’Tips)
  • Covered casserole dish
  • Oven dish/pie dish bigger than you think you’ll need

Method:

  • Take the two birds – skinned & gutted – and wash them under a running cold tap for a moment. Cut any great amounts of fat off and discard.
  • Using heavy duty scissors cut the carcasses at their weak points to allow them to fit into a casserole dish or covered oven dish with lid and put some water/white wine in with them. Pop this into a medium oven (gas 4) for about an hour or so to cook.  You will be taking the meat off the carcass later so it does need to cook through.
  • After that time, take the meat out and place onto a plate to cool to a temperature at which you can separate the meat from the bones without burning your fingers (see Tricks’n’Tips for taking meat off a poultry carcass).
  • Whatever you do, don’t allow any bones to end up in the meat. The lead shot by which the birds met their fate will normally not be a problem, but the bones and/or the end of bone cartilage will be.
  • Pour the cooking liquid into a bowl to cool and then place it in the fridge to let the fat solidify properly on the top. The following day, just take the fat from the top of the stock, putting it into cling film/foil or a yoghurt pot to discard it, putting the jellified stock by for now.  You’ll need it later.
  • To assemble the pie, just roughly slice and fry the onions and garlic until translucent and line the bottom of the pie dish with them. Pop a few sliced/quartered mushrooms in as well.
  • Scatter the herbs and frozen sweetcorn on the onions and then lay on the pheasant meat in large chunks.
  • Heat the contents of the two cans of soup, together with some white wine or water and the stock from below the fat in the bowl and pour over the contents of the pie dish, taking the fluid level to just below the edge of the dish. Season as necessary.
  • Roll out the puff pastry (or buy it ready-rolled, like I do) and lay it on top of the dish (see Tricks’n’Tips), crimping the edges against the dish to make a tight seal.
  • Pierce a few vent holes in the lid, cut out and lay on some fancy pastry shapes for decoration (if you are artistic) and give it an eggwash or a milkwash ( see Tricks’n’Tips) to make it brown attractively.
  • Place it in the oven at about gas 5 for 40 mins, or until the pastry is golden brown and risen a treat.
  • Serve with whatever veg you have. This pie goes well with rustic accompaniments, so forget about serving poncy baby sweetcorn or mange tout.  For this we need chunky carrots, sautéed leeks (or roast veg) and jacket potatoes.

Rich venison casserole:

Rich venison casserole:

Prep:           20 mins.

Cooking:      2 hours or more.

Course:        Main

Serves:         4

Rating:         3:  Moderate.

Venison is beautiful when cooked long and low.  It’s like a rich beef.

For 4 people, find:

  • 1 kg of boneless stewing venison.
  • Root veg – carrots, turnips
  • Button onions – the cheap ones from the supermarket
  • 1 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Half a bottle of red wine
  • Two mugs of stock (see Tricks’n’Tips)
  • Some fresh thyme – if not, use dried
  • Fresh chopped parsley if you can get hold of it – a handful
  • Two tablespoons plain flour
  • A large saucepan that will also go into the oven or a large oven dish and a saucepan.

Method:

  • If the meat is not already cubed, cut to 1” cubes. If it’s already cubed, just trim off any really large lumps of fat.  Don’t be over-fussy with the trimming because the long, slow cooking will melt away most of the now-grotty-looking bits – that’s one of the beauties of this dish, it makes beautiful food from relatively low-cost cuts of venison – which itself is not cheap (Quite deer actually!).
  • Put some olive oil and butter into the saucepan, allow it to melt and mingle and then introduce the cubes of venison.
  • Turn the heat up to high. There needs to be space in the pan for the meat to brown.  If the meat is too crowded in the pan, it will start to sweat, lose moisture and refuse to brown.  We want the surface to brown, to enhance the flavours of the venison – give it space.
  • You may have to do this in several batches, adding further oil/butter as necessary, to get it all browned properly.
  • Put all the venison back into the saucepan when browned, and introduce the flour.
  • Stir it all in with the oil, butter, juices, etc so that they are all absorbed. Put the wine into saucepan and stir all the sticky bits into the wine.
  • Add the stock.  Boil up and ensure that all the bits have been loosened from the pan.  Add the root veg, onions and garlic.
  • If the saucepan is suitable for the oven, put on the lid and pop into the oven at gas mk 4 for an hour, then turn it down to Mk 3. Check after a further hour, or two to ensure it is not drying out.  Add more stock if necessary.  Ensure that all accompaniments are done.
  • If the pan is NOT suitable for use in the oven, tip all the contents into an oven dish and cover with foil and follow as above.
  • Serve with Dauphinoise potatoes, French beans, Chantenay carrots and a great big smile on your smug l’il face.

Yes, it is very similar to the Navarine of Lamb recipe; except where it’s different, of course.

Tacos:

Tacos:

Prep:           5 mins.

Cooking:      20 mins.

Course:        Snack/Lunch/Main

Serves:         As many as……

Rating:         3:  Moderate

Firstly, make the beef mince & onion Thingymebob as in Cottage Pie, add the chili as you wish, then follow the instructions on the Tacos packet. ……… waddaya mean  “that’s obvious….”  ?    

You didn’t think I’d tell you what was written on the packet as well, did you?

Grilled rump steak: (Steak’n’sumfin’)

Grilled rump steak:  (Steak’n’sumfin’) 

Prep:           15 mins.

Cooking:      About 10 mins.

Course:        Main

Serves:         ?

Rating:         3 – Moderate – just have the confidence that you can do it

Find for two people:

  • 2 steaks of some sort; as thick as you can get ‘em
  • Veg oil
  • Seasonings

Although this is listed as grilled rump, it could be sirloin or almost any other ‘steak’ cut of beef.  Not quick-fry steak though, as we’re grilling it (so what would you do with a quick-fry steak?  ….fry it, of course; very quickly – a matter of a minute on each side), and you’d treat fillet steak a little differently as well.

Ok, grilling steak in general:

  • Take the grill pan out of the grill (important) and pre-heat the grill for ten minutes; it needs to be hot before the steak goes under but the pan needs to be cold. Make sure that the delay button has been pressed on the smoke alarm to save your eardrums.
  • Get the steaks out of the fridge. Oil them all over with a vegetable oil (not olive) and put them onto a plate.  Season all over with a little black pepper. 
  • Set your plates to warm a little (not a lot if you are having salad).
  • Have the other things ready, because once the steaks are under the grill there’s no going back; so ensure that any chips, spuds, veg, onions, salad or whatever you are doing to go with the steaks are already done.

Don’t let the salad go cold, will you…….

  • Ok, steaks onto the cold metal bars of the grill pan and under they go.
  • To my mind, a well-done steak is as appealing as a sock in the teeth (the sock still having the foot inside). Any steak should be at the very least, pink in the middle.  I like rare steak, but it has to be good steak to be eaten rare and I’m sure that you’ve not gone out and bought the best steak.  You can’t afford it.  So, let’s go for medium.
  • After four minutes under the hot grill, remove the grill pan, turn the steak over and dribble just an incy-wincy, tiny bit more oil onto the uncooked side; spreading it with a well-washed finger end (you can wash all of your fingers at the same time to do this – not just your spreading finger).
  • Back under the grill they go – the steaks, not your fingers. Open the kitchen window as the smoke is becoming more like a fog.  Put the extractor fan on.  Get your warmed plates ready.
  • After two minutes on the second side, take out the grill pan, use a knife or scissors to cut a slit in the edge of the steak to have a look-see how they’re cooking. If the centre is pink, you are done.  It it’s really blood-red, it needs a further minute (if it’s grey right through, it’s over-done!).  When cooked to perfection, transfer them on to the plates and pop a sheet of foil over them for a couple of mins to rest (important) whilst you get the other bits ready.
  • Take off their foil hats and put the accompaniments with the steaks on the plate. Ensure there are no splashes on the sides of the plates, and serve.
  • Done; steak’n’sumfin’.

Greek Souvlaki: In other words, meat on a stick, or kebabs.

Greek Souvlaki:   In other words, meat on a stick, or kebabs. 

Use bamboo skewers – and get them as long as possible.  You will need maximum length to maximise on ‘impact’.   Allow between one and two skewers per person.  If you are having a starter, main course and a pud, you might get away with one each… perhaps.  It’s all according to how delicious they are.

You must soak the skewers in water for a good couple of hours if you intend to cook these on a barbecue or on a gas grill.  If there is a flame likely to come in contact with the wood, they’ll burn.  At least if they have been soaked the burn will be reduced.  Some people soak them in wine.  I prefer to soak them in water and DRINK the wine….

Prep:           15 mins.

Cooking:      15 mins.

Course:        Snack, starter or main

Serves:         2

Rating:         3:  Moderate

Find for two people:

  • 2 cheap (value) pork chops
  • Red, orange & yellow peppers (see method)
  • Red onion
  • Other things I haven’t thought of yet
  • Wooden kebab skewers
  • Oven (roasting) tin

Method:

  • You can use the supermarket ‘Value’ pork chops as they are probably the cheapest source of quick-cooking pork you’ll get. However, if you have a friendly (tame) butcher who can give you good quality pork at reduced rates, go for whatever is advised – they know more than you and I combined.  However, it shouldn’t really be all completely lean pork as a fat content is needed to allow it to remain succulent.  Remember that it is being cooked quickly and so doesn’t have sufficient time to become tender in the cooking process.
  • Remove the bone from the pork chops and then cut the meat into 2cm cubes. You can cheat by cutting it 2 by 1cm and then folding it in two.  This just makes the meat content look a bit more than it really is.    Perhaps this is a bit of a cheat, but hell, when money is a problem, what’s a bit of fair cheating between friends?
  • You’ll need about a red, an orange and a yellow pepper for 5 or 6 people sitting down to dinner – so about a half a pepper + per person – and a couple of large, round, hard red onions.
  • Peel the red onion by topping and tailing (removing the top and the bottom), cutting in half vertically and then just removing the dried outer layer of the onion.
  • Now take off each layer, one by one, keeping it ‘onion shaped’, in a dome sort of thing.
  • Put these onto a plate or into a bowl or dish to work from. The peppers should be cut in half vertically, the stalk and seeds removed and then each half cut again horizontally, then each quarter cut into two or three bits.  Try to retain the curved nature of each piece.
  • As the meal is ‘on sticks’ it is important to get the presentation right, so start with the pepper.
  • Stick the bamboo skewer through the pepper, skin side first, this will allow the curved nature of the pepper to encompass the pork (the next component) and provide a little moisture for it. Steam cooks meat nicely, especially when it’s flavoured steam, as the pepper will provide.  Pepper, pork, onion, pork, pepper, pork, onion, pork, pepper, pork… you can see the methodology behind it all.
  • Of course, if you want to, you can use mushrooms as well, peeled chestnuts (yummy – but a bugger to put onto skewers without breaking up) and all sorts of other things. As well as, instead of… well, you ring the changes as it’s your meal.  Don’t be slavish and just follow a recipe, use the method and then do as you please – and then, when people ask for the recipe you can say “Well, I didn’t really follow a recipe as such; it was something I just cooked up”  That’ll certainly get you points with the partner.
  • So what do you do with these skewers of stuff that you have in a great mountain on a plate? Well, if you can lay them on a large plate or a wide, shallow oven tin, that’s great.  If you do not have such a thing, use oven foil with the edges just turned up a bit.  Put some olive oil and some balsamic vinegar into a mug to make it about a quarter full, mix it up thoroughly and brush it liberally all over the kebabs.  More rather than less, and make sure that it does not separate before being brushed on.
  • Leave them there for as long as possible.
  • You then have a choice. If you have only enough for two people, do them in your big frying pan.  Perhaps you’ll use the grill, or even a slow barbecue (when the coals are not too hot and likely to start flaming).  You might have a griddle on your cooker, so use that.  If not, bung them into a HOT oven in the oven tin you used for the marinating.  No oven tin?  Use the foil on something ovenproof… just a baking try is fine if the foil is being used.
  • So how long do I need to cook them for? Ah, now, that’s a good question.  With direct heat (frying pan, grill, griddle) you’ll need to look at the meat as it’s cooking and see that it’s not red at all, perhaps 10 – 15 minutes, but with chicken you’ll really need to ENSURE that the meat is cooked.  With the oven you’ll manage to cook well in about 25 minutes if the kebabs went into a pre-heated oven.  If you turned on an oven as you put them in, allow at least another 5 minutes.  If it’s crisping at the corners, it should be fine.  What you don’t want to do is serve cubes of ‘biblical burnt offering’, as they say.  With oven-cooked kebabs it might just be nice to pop them into a frying pan/onto a griddle for a couple of minutes just to crisp the outsides, for good looks.
  • You have a choice of sauces to serve with them, but the Greeks don’t seem to serve them with a sauce at all in my experience.