Monday, 31 October 2011

Dick's Delight

Spotted Dick's Pork Pies
Thanks to regular contributor Spotted Dick for sending me a picture of his pork pies. Feel free to send me foodie pix and recipe suggestions to and I'll try to publish the best.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Thousand Island Dressing – In the pink

Thousand Island Dressing
One of the constituents of a Reuben sandwich, and a dressing with as much flexibility as a contortionist having a massage, is the thousand island dressing. It's also ridiculously easy to make and bears little resemblance in look and taste to the luminous acidic muck you get in the shops. Saying that, I am using shop-bought mayo for the recipe, which, obviously, isn't as nice as homemade, but a) I'm knackered and can't be arsed to make my own, and b) well, I'm knackered and can't be arsed to make my own. Stick with The Albion Tavern, though, and I will get round to making homemade mayo at some stage. Just not today. A search of the interweb throws up (if that's the right phrase for a food blog) varying recipes, so this is an amalgamation of a couple. Serves 4.

4 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 large gherkin, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
5-6 drops of Tabasco
2 tsp Worcerstershire sauce
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper

1. Mix all the ingredients together and season to taste.
2. Er, that's it.

Reuben Sandwich – Reu beauty

Reuben sandwich
You've made your salt beef, the rye bread has come out of the oven and has cooled and you've even made up your own thousand island dressing. Let's stop messing about now and get down to business, assembling one of the world's finest sandwiches.
1. Pre-heat your grill.
2. Cut two thick slices of your rye bread.
3. Coat one side with a generous helping of thousand island dressing and the other with sauerkraut. I used shop-bought kraut.
4. On top of the kraut load up with salt beef.
5. Add Emmental cheese and place under grill until melted.
6. Top with other slice of bread and serve with gherkins.

It's been a wait to get to this point, but I cannot tell you how good it was. Well, actually I can, and I will. Soft, fragrant bread, melt in the mouth flavoursome beef, and delicious dressing.

Salt Beef – Part 2

Day 14
The day of reckoning for the salt beef is finally here. After two long weeks of turning in the fragrant, salty brine, the brisket is now ready to poach. Take the meat out of the brine and gently rinse it under cold water. Place in a large pan with one onion, two carrots and a couple of bay leaves. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for up to four hours, making sure the water is topped up. You'll know when the beef is ready when a knife easily goes through it.
When it is done, carefully remove from the poaching liquor and roughly carve with a sharp knife. Serve warm, either the traditional way on rye bread with mustard and pickle, or as a Reuben sandwich. The beef wasn't quite as pink as I thought it would be, but the texture and flavour was spot on.

Hot salt beef. Delicious

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Tarte au Citron – Au my god!

Since launching this blog I've been inundated with requests (ok, only one, so here you are, Alex) for the recipe to the tarte au citron that adorns the homepage banner. It comes courtesy of that foxy little home-baking minx, Mary Berry, and featured in the recent series of the Great British Bake Off. It was my first attempt at making a tart of any kind and used shortcrust pastry. The end result was unbelievably delicious, with melt in the mouth sweet pastry and moreish lemon curd-style filling. The edges of my tart were a little scruffy, but this is all a steep leaning curve for me and is something I can work on next time (oh, there will definitely be a next time). I added the raspberries as a decoration because I had some lying around (as you do). Serves 8 (yeah, right, I had about half of it)

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small cubes
25g icing sugar, sifted
1 large free-range egg yolk
1 tbsp icy water

For the filling:
5 large free-range eggs
125ml double cream
225g caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 4 medium lemons (you need 150ml juice)

To finish:
Icing sugar, for dusting

1x23cm fluted, deep loose-based tart tin; non-stick baking paper, baking sheet

1. To make the pastry, put the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food processor. Pulse briefly until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water and process until the ingredients stick together in clumps.
2. Tip the mixture onto a lightly floured worktop and gather it into a ball with your hands. Knead 2 or 3 times, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for 15 minutes.
3. Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured worktop to a neat round that is the diameter of the pie dish plus twice its height including the rim.
4. Roll the pastry around the pin and carefully drape over the tin. With floured fingers, gently press the dough on the base and up the sides, into the flutes, so there are no air pockets or wrinkles. Avoid stretching the pastry. Prick the base with a fork, cover loosely with clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes before baking.
5. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Remove the clingfilm from the pastry and line with non-stick baking paper. Fill with baking beans and blind bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Lift out the beans and carefully trim the excess pastry from the sides using a sharp knife.
6. Return the empty case back to the oven for a further 10 to 12 minutes or until pale gold and completely dry. Remove to a wire rack to cool and reduce the oven to 160C/325F/gas 3.
7. For the filling, break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk until well combined. Transfer to a jug. Pour into the cooled pastry case and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling is just set, but with a slight wobble in the centre. Leave to cool slightly then remove the tart from the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Dust with sifted icing sugar before serving.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Jamie's Great Britain – C4, 9pm, Ep.1

Jamie Oliver has got some explaining to do. On the cover of his new book, Jamie's Great Britain (above), he proudly cradles a dish of succulent roast beef, roast spuds and veg, while sitting before the Union Jack (Union Flag for the pedants out there). Hell, he's even wearing a matching shirt. There can be no doubt what the book, which accompanies the new series of the same name, is all about. British food.
So when this new series started last night, I watched with an expectant air of jingoistic excitement. Episode one, The East End and Essex. Marvellous, I thought, smacking my lips while awaiting Oliver's artistic take on pie and mash, fish and chips, jellied eel and shrimps. Er, what the fuck is this Vietnamese shit? Bang me? Hold on, she's smearing paté onto French bread...
Now don't get me wrong, we all know that British food, like its peoples, is an amalgamation of cultures from all over the globe, with far-flung ingredients and influences becoming staples of British cuisine. As Oliver seemed to gleefully point out (after obviously looking it up on Wikipedia), even something like the humble British pie started life in Egypt, before being brought to these isles by those pesky Romans. But this is the thing. It's now British, recognised the world over, and entrenched in our culture for centuries. It's about as British as they come, despite its North African heritage. After all, what is a purely British dish? Leeches and mud?
So yes, Vietnamese cooking may be becoming more prevalent in our society, but just because something is made in this country does not instantly make it British. If that is the case, then be done with the whole programme and just have loads of pasta recipes because there's loads of Italian restaurants on our high street. Of course you've got to show ethnic influences as part of British food, especially when covering the East End of London. Salt beef, for example, and how can you not include curry, which has evolved over time into a cuisine unrecognisable in India? But Vietnamese/French paté and pork sandwich? Come on...
Anyway, back to the programme. So Oliver tucked into his bang me (I never did catch what it was called), before some old Cockney granny conveniently turned up to have a taste. Now, I actually expected her head to explode Scanners-style after one bite of the spicy sarnie or to go off on some Alf Garnett rant about this "foreign muck", but she liked it. "Bloody lovely," she gummed, before Oliver quite bizarrely and unnecessarily translated it to the two Vietnamese women serving the dish. For one horrible moment, I thought he was going to say "Bruddy ruvery".
The programme rambled on, part autobiography (Oliver was conceived on Southend pier), part history lesson (fish and chips is Jewish. Yes, but no mention of the potatoes used to make the chips being brought to Britain along with tobacco and 12-speed racing bikes by Sir Walter Raleigh). There was no cohesion. Some hamburgers looked amazing. We learnt that not only are they not British (never!), but they're not even American (get out!). Apparently they came to the US from, and you'll never believe this, Germany! THE CLUE'S IN THE NAME, YOU CRETIN! There was something about Russia and Mongolia, but what was the point? If you're going to include hamburgers in a programme about British food, then why not kebabs? And before any of you point out that this a show about food in Great Britain, not Great British food – bollocks. It's not me sitting on the cover of whacking big book with a Sunday roast and the national flag.
Oliver did make a pie (hurray!) in a weird mobile shed, but it was one of those lazy pies without a bottom or sides, just stew and a pastry hat (boo!). He played the fruities in Southend in a pointless aside, then met a winkle-picker at work, which reminded me of a segment from Rick Stein's Food Heroes, but nowhere near as good – or honest. Oh look, there's that old Cockney woman again... oh no, it's his gran.
Oliver's food looks amazing (although I'm sure he's done that fish in a tinfoil bag thing before) and he is obviously brilliant at what he does (there'll be plenty of his recipes on this blog), but this first episode was a crashing disappointment. Flags at half mast.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Bramley Apple Crumble with Crème Anglaise – Core Blimey

Bramley Apple Crumble with Crème Anglaise
What do you do when your brother-in-law gives you a bag of huge Bramley apples from his garden and all you've been eating for the past two days has basically been pork pies? The answer, especially on a cold and dark autumn evening, has got to be make apple crumble and custard. Of course, I could have just whacked it all together and served it with some Bird's, and by god, it would have been good. I mean, it's not really hard to make – I'm pretty sure, along with scones and pizza, it's a staple dish of every home economics class of every school in the country (well it used to be. It's probably all falafel and lentils these days). On the other hand I could have made it even better by making a crumble as served by gastropub The Oak near Notting Hill, and crème Anglaise by some chefy bloke called Gordon Ramsay. I have to say, the lemon and orange zest worked particularly well on the crumble topping (which is partly pre-cooked before adding to the apples) and was a nice twist.

Oh, and do you know what the best thing is about this dish? I think it tastes even better cold the following day. Cheers for the apples, Baz. 

For the apple crumble:
6 large Bramley apples, peeled and diced
225g unsalted butter
50g soft brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
115g plain flour
zest of 1/4 unwaxed lemon
zest of 1/4 unwaxed orange
30g ground almonds
55g muscovado sugar

1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. In a heavy-bottomed pan, sauté the apples in half the butter. Add the soft brown sugar, cinnamon stick, star anise and cook for 10-15 minutes until the apples are caramelised and soft.
2. Make the crumble by putting the flour and remaining butter in a food processor and whizzing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in lemon and orange zest, almonds and muscovado sugar.
3. Spread crumble on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and fluff up with a fork. Put the sautéed apples in an ovenproof dish and cover with the crumble. Cook for 15 minutes until the topping is golden. Serve hot or cold with crème Anglaise.

For the crème Anglaise:
250ml whole milk
250ml double cream
50g caster sugar
6 large free-range egg yolks
2 vanilla pods

1. Add milk and cream to a heavy-based pan. Split vanilla pods lengthways and scrape seeds into pan and add pods. Heat gently, making sure it doesn't boil.
2. While heating, beat sugar and egg yolks with a balloon whisk until thick and pale.
3. As the liquid comes to the boil, remove from heat and strain slowly onto the eggs and sugar, whisking constantly. Discard pods.
4. Pour back into a clean pan and gently heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to desired thickness.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Gooseberry Chutney – Fool's Gold

Gooseberry Chutney
This was made during the summer after a rather, ahem, fruitful pick-you-own session, and after maturing for three months is now the perfect companion for cold meats, cheese and pork pies. The recipe is very simple and filled four jars.

1.3kg gooseberries
250g onions
500g sugar
280ml water
15g salt
570ml vinegar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper


1. Top and tail the gooseberries.
2. Finely chop the onions and cook with the gooseberries in the water until they are soft.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally until the chutney becomes thick.
4. Pot in sterilised jars. Leave for three months to mature before using.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pork Pie – Crust Test Dummy

Pork Pie with Gooseberry Chutney. Could have done with more jelly in this one, but still delicious

Today is my sixth wedding anniversary. And what better way to celebrate with my vegetarian wife than by making pork pies. Once again, like many of the dishes you'll find on this humble blog, I'm entering virgin territory when it comes to making pork pies. Oh I've eaten pork pies by the sty-load and can think of nothing better than diving in to the thick crust and seeing my first hint of pink flesh and jelly (and yes, I am only too aware that food descriptions can sometimes have none-too-subtle sexual overtones, but the two have invariably gone hand in hand since caveman's first childish giggles while sucking on a woolly mammoth bone. And yes, I am only too aware that I might be pushing the boundaries somewhat by likening a pork pie to a lady's, er, lady bits. I apologise – especially to my wife. Happy anniversary, darling).

Anyway, back to the pork pie. The recipe I am using is Paul Hollywood's Pork Pie and Quail's Eggs as seen on BBC's Great British Bake Off – but without the eggs and with more pork. And a bit of special pork pie seasoning from Other than these, the techniques used and ingredients are as instructed by Mr Hollywood. Makes 6.

For the pastry:
200g plain flour
40g strong bread flour
50g unsalted butter
60g lard
1tsp salt
100ml boiling water
1 egg, beaten, to glaze

For the filling:
1 large onion
300g boneless pork loin
100g unsmoked bacon
small bunch parsley
salt and black pepper or 10g pork pie seasoning
1 x sheet 7g leaf gelatine

1 x 15cm and 1 x 20cm round cutter; six-hole muffin (snigger) tray

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Sift the flours into a mixing bowl. Add butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture forms fine crumbs. Make a well in the centre.
2. Melt lard in a pan and remove from heat. Dissolve salt in boiling water and add to lard, stirring to combine. Pour the hot mixture into the well in the flour and mix with a wooden spoon to form a dough.
3. When the dough is cool enough to handle, tip onto a lightly floured surface. Ok, you've got to work quickly now while the dough is still warm. Work into a ball to remove lumps for about 2 minutes.

4. Roll out the dough to 3mm thickness and cut six rounds each with the two cutters.
5. Line the muffin (oh, please) tray with the 20cm rounds, pressing them gently over the base and up the sides without stretching. Chill along with the lids while you make the filling.
6. Finely chop the onion, pork, bacon and parsley. I pulsed them in a Magimix so the meats were still slightly rough. Add seasoning. Fry a little in a pan and taste. Add more seasoning if required. Spoon mixture into pie cases.

7. Brush the edge of each pastry case with beaten egg. Place the lids on top and press edges together. Crimp with the back of a fork if required.
8. Use a piping nozzle to make a steam hole in each pie, then brush with egg. Bake in oven for 40 minutes, then remove pies from tin to cool. I placed my pies back in the oven on a baking tray for another five minutes to give the sides of the pies a bit more colour. Allow to cool.
9. Dissolve the stock cube in boiling water. Soak the gelatine sheet in a little water, gently squeeze out the excess water then whisk into hot stock. Pour a little of the stock mixture into the hole of each pie. Leave to cool overnight or in fridge for a couple of hours before serving with gooseberry chutney.

Salt Beef – Day 7

Day 7
Ok, the salt beef has now been in the brine for a week and I have to say it is smelling superb. Really fragrant and spicy with hints of, dare I say it for such a traditional Jewish dish, Christmas. One more week to go.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Salt Beef – Israeli nice...

Day 1

What's not to love about salt beef? Tender, melt-in-the-mouth brisket, served on rye bread with hot mustard and pickles. Yum, and indeed, yum. Sadly, decent salt beef cafés are something of a dying breed these days, so getting your hands on this juicy Jewish delicacy is rarer than a rabbi at a hog roast. And if the mountain won't come to Moses...

Ok, making your own salt beef is surprisingly easy and cheap, what with brisket being an incredibly reasonable cut of beef selling for around £6-£7 a kilo. You'll also need a bit of space in your fridge and a bit of time.

Soaking the beef in brine for up to two weeks will beak down all the fatty connective tissue leaving a succulent piece of meat. That's the theory anyway. Oh, and to keep the beef looking pink rather than an insipid grey (and to kill botulism spores), you'll need to source some saltpetre (sodium nitrate). Go easy, though, as it's an ingredient used in gunpowder, so buying too much will likely see you raided by the anti-terrorism squad.

1.25kg beef brisket
2l water
200g salt
75g sugar
15g saltpetre (sodium nitrate, a preservative used to give the meat its pink colour and to help prevent nasties such as botulism. Also used in fireworks and explosives. Handle with care. I got mine from
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
13g pickling spices (anything you like here. I used ground ginger, allspice juniper berries, coriander seeds, dried chilli and 1 clove)

1. To make the brine add the salt, sugar and spices to the water, bring to the boil and allow to cool.
2. Place the beef into a large plastic container and cover with the cooled brine and lid, weighing down with a saucer and ramekin if necessary to completely submerge the meat.
3. Put in a cool place or fridge for two weeks, turning the meat every day. Yes, two weeks. Pop back in a fortnight see how we got on and for the next step. I'll also be making the rye bread.

Open for business

Tarte au Citron

Welcome to The Albion Tavern, my virtual gastropub serving the very best in home-cooked food and home-brewed beer. I'll be creating everything from pies, tarts and bread, to traditional British favourites, such as toad in the hole and roast beef.