Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Liquor 44

As my blog is called "orangemartini on food and drink" I thought it was about time I shared a drink recipe with you that was given to me by someone I used to work with and who knew my love for food & drink.
Liquor 44 is a lovely digestive drink which can be drunk with (or as alternative to) the after dinner coffee.
To start with you need a 1,5 liter (3 pint) kilner jar, sterilised.

44 sugar cubes (approx 4 to 5 oz caster sugar)
2 oranges (each studded with 22 coffee beans)
a vanilla pod (optional)
a bottle of Dutch gin or vodka can be used as an alternative

Is very easy:
1. put the 44 sugar cubes in the bottom of the kilner jar
2. set the studded oranges on top of this
3. add the vanilla pod if using (not in the original recipe, but I like it)
4. pour over the Dutch gin or the vodka
Close the jar and give it a gentle shake once a day to dissolve all the sugar After 44 days decant & you will have your own homemade coffee-orange flavoured Liquor 44

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Life, Fork & Spoon by James Martin

Ready meals are not my thing….I enjoy cooking too much, but going away on a self-catering holiday in Scotland I decided to try the meals created by James Martin on his Life, Fork & Spoon range.
Meals can be delivered to any address in mainland UK. I had them delivered at home before we left and we just took them up with us, but it might be possible to get them delivered directly at your holiday home (please check with the owner of the holiday property) All meals come with clear and easy to follow reheating instructions and for the first night we opted for braised gammon hock with a mustard and honey sauce.
The meat was succulent and full of flavour and it is what we would call a Yorkshire portion. Lots & lots there! There is plenty of sauce with it too. This is plate-licking good! We had our gammon with “French potatoes” my variation of dauphinoise potatoes which layers the potatoes with onions & cheese.
On the first night we decided on the lemon drizzle sponge for our sweet and this also went down a treat. The sauce gets delivered in a pouch of it’s own to be reheated separately so it can be poured over the sponge just before serving. We just added a bit of cream to it, nice but not absolutely necessary as the sponge and sauce are full of flavour themselves: sweet and with a lovely lemony tang
On night two we went for the steak & ale pie (in the picture served with a Caesar salad). Once again an ample portion, the pie was full of flavour and had some good chunks of steak in it. The pastry was lovely and crumbly too.
For afters we had the tarte tatin. And although the pastry was good and the apples lovely, I missed the caramel that I get when I make an apple tarte tatin from scratch. My OH said he really liked it, I definitely missed the caramel.
The last of our Life, Fork & Spoon meals of the week was the Beef Bordelaise with pancetta and red wine. As soon as I opened the pouches a beautiful aroma wafted my way. This smelled promising and it didn’t disappoint. 3 very generous chunks of beef, beautifully soft onion, pancetta and plenty of red wine sauce. Comfort food at it’s best. I agree it would be absolutely wonderful with a creamy mash & seasonal vegetables, but after a 7 hour car journey the thought of peeling & boiling potatoes to make a mash was not one I cherished. So we opted for some really crusty bread and butter to go with it. The bread was great to mop up all the lovely sauce. Another definite triumph in this range of  ready meals.

To finish this meal off, we went for James’s signature dish of white chocolate & whisky bread pudding. Well, what can I say about this dessert that has not been said before. The combination of the soft in the middle, crunchy on the outside croissant with currants and a creamy custard is always a winner and a worthy conclusion of our exploration of the Life, Fork Spoon range.
As I said at the start, I don’t do ready meals normally and I am not about to change this anytime soon. But it is great to know that there is a good quality & very yummy range of ready meals out there for when you want it.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Boat House - South Queensferry

Whilst on holiday in Scotland we just had to meet up with some good friends of ours.
Staying at a lodge about an hour from where they live, we decided to meet more or less halfway and go for a meal out to The Boathouse in South Queensferry.

The Boathouse consists of a formal restaurant, a cocktail bar and a more informal bistro, both restaurant & bistro overlooking the Firth of Forth (although being this late in the season it was dark when we got there, but I can see how it would be lovely to sit outside on the terrace on a bright summer’s day).

The staff were friendly & welcoming and we were shown to a table near the window. We had not seen our friends for some time so there was a lot to catch up on and it took us a while to even start to look at the menu to make our choices, but at no point did we feel rushed.

We all decided to go for the haggis nuggets with sweet chilli dip for starters. A great beginning, 3 pieces of haggis in an extremely light & crispy batter with the sweet chilli dip, giving it a bit of a kick. A light side salad to counterbalance the strong flavours of haggis & chilli finished it off just nicely.

For mains the choices were a bit more varied with two of our party going for the "Saute chicken and chorizo sausage in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce with tripoline pasta." I was reliable informed that this was a great pasta dish with the warming spice of the chorizo really coming through. Then there was the "Buccleuch beef burger 8oz - Pure beef char-grilled served on a toasted bun with Iceberg lettuce, red onion, tomato and onion rings with fries." This could be served plain or with a good choice of toppings. A generous portion that also went down well.
I opted for the "West coast scallops pan-fried on a seasonal leaf salad with sauté potatoes and drizzled with white truffle scented olive oil"….a beautiful combination and lovely to see the scallops served with the roe. Personally I love the roe and I always think it is a bit of a shame when it gets discarded. This was light and very more-ish.

As none of the dishes we had were stingy portions, we decided just to have a coffee after. This rounded off the meal nicely.
Go to the Boat house Bistro if you fancy a relaxed, no rush meal. No haut cuisine here, but a nice comforting meal at a reasonable price. Being so near the coast there is an ample selection of fish dishes, but meat eaters have a good choice too.
Do however give yourself plenty of time to get there. It is easy enough to find, but parking spaces in the area are limited so you might have to park it a bit further up and walk down to the bistro.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Dutch Pea Soup

With winter fast approaching I decided it was time to make a big pot of "erwtensoep" or "snert" as it sometimes also is called. This is a very traditional Dutch winter dish. And here is my version of it - a combination of some guidelines I found on the internet and of what I can remember when this was made at home.
This soup is sure to warm you up on a cold winters day.

500 gr dried split peas
2 liters of water
a ham shank
a pig's trotter
spare ribs (I like to get some pork belly & cut away the bones saving the pork belly for some other time)
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
4 or 5 onions, roughly chopped
a leek, sliced
a celeriac, peeled and cut & cubed
a smoked sausage, sliced


Soak the peas in the water overnight
The next morning, drain the peas but reserve the water.

Add the ham shank, pig's trotter & spare ribs to the reserved water and bring to the boil. Skim off the foam (not absolutely necessary as the end product will not be a clear soup, but I do think it give a better soup), cover and leave to simmer for about 2 hours.

The soaked peas and simmering stock

After two hours, remove the meat & add the peas.
When cool remove the excess fat from the meat & take the meat of the bones. Cut or shred into bitesize chunks.

Veggies ready to go into the soup

After the peas have been cooking for one hour, add all the vegetables & cook for another two hours or so adding the shredded meat towards the end of the cooking time (if you prefer you could puree the soup before adding the meat, but I like my soup with chunky bites)

After two or three hours the soup should have thickened up so much that your spoon will stand up in it

Check the soup for seasoning (remember as said by the great Thomas Keller on Saturday Kitchen: salt will enhance the flavour that is already there, pepper will add a flavour to it)

Finally add the sliced smoked sausage and let it warm in the soup before serving either with the tradtional rye bread topped with grilled streaky bacon or just some fresh crusty bread

This quantity will serve a large family or friends group but also freezes well for upto 3 to 4 months, giving you an easy comfort dish on cold winter nights.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Leeds Kitchen by James Martin

This week we had booked for a Sunday lunch at the Leeds Kitchen by James Martin at Clarence Dock in Leeds. And we were in luck. Not only was James himself at the restaurant, he had organised a Supercar Sunday. Many beautiful Aston Martin's & Ferrari's were parked outside the restaurant for all to admire and a hog roast was put on for those not eating in the restaurant. James had brought one of his own favourite cars a Mustang Shelby Cobra
James Martin and his 1967 Mustang

But we were at the restaurant to eat.
As we walked into the restaurant James was at the entrance and we were greeted with a friendly handshake and a "welcome to the Leeds Kitchen". A great start! And the welcome by the rest of the staff was as pleasant & forthcoming. We were shown to our table near the window where we had a great view of the Mustang. Our drinks order was promptly taken and we were given the special Sunday Lunch menu which changes ever week and gives a choice of 4 starters, mains and desserts. It will always include a roast dinner as a main course choice. We offered a choice of still, sparkling or tap water. A basket of a mixture of white and brown bread was brought to the table with both salted & unsalted butter, a nice touch.

While we were waiting for our starters to arrive, James walked through the restaurant and I asked if he had time for a picture. There was no hesitation what so ever and James patiently posed for a picture with me. And of course I was not the only asking for a picture or signature, but he happily obliged on every occasion I could see.

Then it was time to eat.
For starters both my husband and myself decided to go for the pork & black pudding scotch egg on a watercress puree and with a red wine dressing.
Beautifully soft-boiled egg in a black-pudding & pork crust with the peppery watercress that complimented it splendidly. A picture on a plate, that delivered the taste it promised. A fabulous start to our meal.
After this both OH and I went our different ways. Hubby decided on the braised blade of beef with baby onions, smoked pancetta & English mustard mash
while I opted for the pan-fried salmon fillet with vanilla salsify and shellfish saffron cream. As I am allergic to mussels, the very friendly waitress went to the kitchen to check what was in the shellfish saffron cream. I was assured it was made solely from lobster shells, so I was safe to have this dish.

And I was glad this was the case. The salmon was cooked just right & seasoned to perfection (if I had to have one critisism it would be that the skin could have been a bit crisper all over). I have grown my own salsify and I loved the way this was prepared with a very subtle hint of vanilla. The shellfish saffron cream was full of flavour yet delicate.
Sunday lunches include the vegetables and we were served a choice of crispy curly kale, a carrot & swede purée and soft red cabbage.

As both courses had filled us up quite a bit, we asked for a little break before our desserts and despite the restaurant being very busy (they had to turn some people that walked in away as the restaurant was full) we were not hurried along. In the end my husband decided on bramley apple crumble tart with cinnamon custard

While I opted for the Sherry & Ginger Trifle

This was proper comfort food...delicate raspberries, combined with sherry soaked ginger cake, creamy custard and topped with whipped cream and a pistachio crunch. Yum Yum!!

Throughout the whole meal the FOH staff were attentive and very friendly and at no point did we feel rushed despite it being very busy. We had some lovely chats with some of them as well and were informed that James is looking to open another restaurant in Manchester in the new year, which is great news but even if he wasn't The Leeds Kitchen is definitely worth a trip to t'other side of the Pennines.

However note that the restaurant currently has an over 18's policy only as it is situated at Alea casino and entrance to the restaurant is through the casino. But we were told that James is looking into getting a seperate entrance to the Leeds Kitchen which would make it accesible for families with children as well.

Once the restaurant in Manchester opens, we will surely go and check it out, but until then we happily make the trip to Leeds ..........in fact we already have booked again for later in the year.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Lamb shanks slow braised in red wine

In this, the first of my blogs, I thought I'd share one of my favourite lamb shanks recipes. It is loosely based on the recipe published in "The French Brasserie by Daniel Galmiche" one of my favourite cookbooks at the moment.
The curried cabbage is from a "Two Fat Ladies" cookbook and it is a lovely alternative way of serving cabbage. It only has a mild curry flavour, although if you are a fan of curries you could always increase the amount of curry powder or use a stronger flavour curry powder

For the lamb shanks:
4 small lamb shanks
6 anchovis
2 cloves of garlic cut into 6 slices each
4 sprigs of rosemary, cut into 3 pieces each
3 tbsp of sunflower or mild olive oil (or mixture of the two)
1 onion cut lengthways in to 8
1 celery stick, thinly sliced
750 ml of full bodied red wine
500 ml of lamb stock or water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the curried cabbage:
1 savoy cabbage shredded
250 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 onion studded with some cloves
a bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp butter
120 ml double cream
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a mild curry powder like korma (about 1 tbsp or to taste)
55 gr dried breadcrumbs


Lamb shanks:

Cut the anchovis in half and lay a bit of rosemary and a sliver of garlic on them. Roll up to make a neat little package. Make 3 incisions in each of the lamb shanks and stuff the anchovis packages in each of those.
Season the lamb shanks well.
Heat the oils in a ovenproof pot over a medium to high heat and when hot brown the lamb shanks all over.
Add the onion and celery and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the vegetables have slightly softened and have a lovely golden colour. Add the wine and reduce by half.
Add the stock and bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cover partially with a lid, leaving a very small gap, and simmer for 2 hours until the lamb is meltingly tender and the sauce has reduced down a little. Turn the meat from time to time and make sure it doesn't braise too fast and dry out - you want to have some sauce at the end.
Alternatively if you make this in advantage you can slowly braise the lamb shanks in a preheated oven (140C/275F/Gas 1) for 2,5 hours. Just slowly reheat before serving.

Serve with a creamy mash, curried cabbage (recipe below) and some of the sauce.

For the curried cabbage:

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4
Put the cabbage in a large pan with the stock, bay leaf, garlic and clove studded onion.
Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Drain the cabbage and discard bayleaf, onion & garlic.
Put the cabbage in a greased casserole dish.
Mix together salt, pepper, curry powder and half the butter, add the cream and stil until smooth.
Pour over the cabbage, sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and dot with the remaining butter.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.