A Week in the Life

London has an incredible diversity of activities to experience and I’ve been out there doing just that. In this past week, I’ve shopped at the fabulous Borough Market,

walked through a gorgeous tribute to India’s use of orchids at Kew Gardens,

and seen how they play ice hockey in England as the Streatham Red Hawks took on the Invicta Dynamos

And after all that running around we still had to eat. A look in the fridge revealed leftover roast chicken and not much more than that. I remembered Lancashire hotpot from the comforting detective show “Hetty Wainthropp Investigates” and came up with this recipe using chicken instead of the traditional lamb. It’s an easy way to use up leftovers for a quick, nourishing supper.

First, sauté onions in olive oil until golden

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Then whisk in some flour to make a roux

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Stir and cook the roux until it is lightly browned then whisk in chicken stock

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Bring to a boil then lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes or so until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Fold in the chicken and some cooked vegetables and incorporate well.

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Transfer the stew into an oven proof casserole and top with thinly sliced potatoes then brush the potatoes with olive oil or melted butter and pop in the oven.

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Voila! In no time flat a hotpot worthy of Hetty and her crew is ready to enjoy.

Chicken Hotpot a la Hetty Wainthropp

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper

2 cups cooked chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces

2 cups cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas, turnips, zucchini, mushrooms

2 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350F/160C. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat then add the onions and sauté until golden and softened. Whisk in the flour until a smooth roux forms and cook for a few minutes then add the chicken stock and whisk rapidly over high heat. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring frequently until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and fold in chicken and vegetables then transfer to a medium ovenproof casserole dish. Smooth the top then lay the sliced potatoes in a spiral design over the stew. Brush the potatoes with the remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the stew is bubbling and the potatoes are browned and crusty, about 35-40 minutes.

 

A Classic Use for Leftovers

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If you’re following the local seasonal mantra, then there isn’t a lot of choice here in England in February. Roots, potatoes, onions, cabbage and lots of kale are on the menu, especially for the country’s lauded Sunday roast – a big noontime meal with everything crisped up in a hot oven. The next day frugal cooks take the leftover bits of roasted veggies, mash them together and fry the mass into “bubble and squeak”. Some say the term refers to the sound the cabbage makes as its being fried and some say it refers to the sound your GI system makes after consumption. In any event, on a chilly winter evening a round of bubble and squeak can be quite a comforting dish and it goes rather nicely with salty meats (bacon or ham), poached eggs and early spring vegetables like asparagus.

If you aren’t much for Sunday roasts and don’t have leftovers laying around, you can easily construct bubble and squeak from the ground up.

Slice leeks and sauté with minced garlic until  tender and just beginning to caramelize.

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Boil peeled potatoes with some chunks of peeled turnip (known as swede here) until soft. I purchased this massive specimen at our weekly farmers market in Balham, as well as the leeks, cabbage and potatoes.

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When fork tender, mash it together with some rich mascarpone (you can also use creme fraiche), butter and just enough milk to make it smooth but stiff, as well as plenty of salt and pepper. Stir in the leek mixture and some cooked cabbage.

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Form into thick cakes and chill. The cakes are then fried until browned on each side, perched on crisp tender steamed asparagus and topped with a juicy slice of ham. This dish is really good served with something sweet and fruity, such as Cranberry Apple Pear Relish.

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Maybe not entirely traditional but a California take on a classic, cooking mostly with what is coming out of the fields and farms in England right now.

Bubble and Squeak Cakes with Ham and Asparagus

3 medium potatoes – such as Yukon Gold or King Edward – peeled and quartered

1 medium turnip peeled and quartered

1 leek

olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4 head of a small cabbage cut in three pieces

2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup milk – or as needed

10 asparagus spears

Applewood smoked ham – either 1 or 2 slices totalling 4 oz or 125 grams

Two poached eggs – optional

Boil the potatoes and turnips together in a medium pot of copiously salted water. Slice the leek in half lengthwise, keeping the root intact, and rinse thoroughly. Make another long lengthwise cut so the leek is cut in quarters horizontally then cut crosswise in 1/4″ pieces. Heat the olive oil in a 10″ frying pan and saute the leek with the garlic until tender and golden. Simmer the cabbage in a small pot of salted water to cover until cooked through; when cool enough to handle, finely chop and set aside.

When the potatoes and turnips are soft, drain and mash them with the mascarpone and butter, adding milk if needed until mixture holds together. Stir in the leeks and cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Form into two 6″X 1/2″ cakes then pop them in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, trim the asparagus ends and get them set up in a shallow pan with a lid to steam; have a frying pan at the ready to cook the ham. Take out the cakes and heat up the pan used for sautéing the leeks over medium high heat. Add some butter and once it’s melted add the cakes. At this point get the asparagus steaming until crisp tender and sizzle the ham in a hot pan until golden on each side then keep everything warm. Peek at the underside of the cakes to see if they are deep golden then turn and repeat on the other side.

To serve, divide the asparagus between two plates, top with the bubble and squeak cakes and then the ham. If you want to gild the lily, crown each stack with a poached egg and wolf down before it gets cold.

Serves 2

 

 

Signs of Spring in London

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Since my last post, I picked up stakes and moved from sunny California to London, arriving in mid-October. The city is quite a contrast to my suburban West Coast home with it’s large garden and temperate climes. Here, the constant frigid grayness of January has merged into rainy, chilly February – which had me searching last weekend for signs of spring.

Delicate snow drops are peeking out of just-thawed dirt throughout London’s vacant lots, public parks and gardens. I took this photo at Chelsea Physic Garden last weekend.

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Another sign showed up on the produce shelves at my local Waitrose grocery store. Known as “forced rhubarb”, this typically spring vegetable (that is treated like a fruit) is grown indoors under curious circumstances. Coming from an area known as the rhubarb triangle in Yorkshire, the rhizome is initially started outdoors where it absorbs nutrients from the sun, and is moved indoors after the first frost in November. Once inside the rhubarb shed, it is grown in complete darkness and harvested by candlelight (Image courtesy ChicagoNow) throughout the winter months.

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This treatment creates ruby red, subtly sweet and tender stalks. In 2010 the EU designated the rhubarb triangle a PDO – Protected Designation of Origin status – a recognition bestowed on such lofty products as Stilton for its cheese and Champagne in France.

The cheery crimson sticks make a great compote when cooked up with exotic spices. I used star anise, whole cloves and a cinnamon stick along with orange juice and zest and layered the compote with rich rice pudding in parfait glasses.

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However the mixture would be tasty paired with your morning porridge or yogurt and granola or delicious served alongside sausages, roast pork or duck, turkey and chicken.

Start by cutting the trimmed stalks in 1 inch pieces.

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Then simmer them in a wide saucepan with the sugar, spices and orange until just soft.

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My hope is that this little taste of spring will stay with me until the days get longer, the gray skies clear and London bursts into the blooming, bird singing springtime of my dreams.

Spiced Poached Rhubarb

1 pound rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut in 1″ pieces

2 whole star anise pods

1 cinnamon stick

2 whole cloves

Juice and zest of 1 large navel orange

6 tablespoons brown, muscovado or coconut sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a wide saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat so mixture is on a gentle simmer and cook until rhubarb is just-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups

 

 

 

 

We’re Jammin’!

With plentiful summer fruits in market bins and baskets around the country right now, the craving to preserve it for winter is high on my list. I have a terrific recipe from my friend Therese’ mom for raspberry plum jam and I make plenty of it during these warm months to nourish us throughout the year. A spoonful on toast, mixed into yogurt or baked into thumbprint cookies brings back the feeling of a warm summer day.

PLUM RASPBERRY JAM

Equipment:

1. 6- 8 oz canning jars with sealable lids
2. Canning pot with rack and lid or a stockpot large enough to hold 10 jars
3. Enamel or copper sauce pot that is wide and shallow, Le Creuset works well
4. Wide mouth funnel
5. Canning jar tongs, regular tongs, ladle

Recipe:

4 cups chopped plums

2 cups raspberries

4 1/2 cups sugar

Lemon juice if desired

Wash the fruit well. Pit the plums and roughly chop – I use the Cuisinart for this task.

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I put the berries through a food mill to get rid of the majority of the seeds but you don’t have to do that if you don’t mind the seeds.

Meanwhile, wash the canning jars and put in a canner or large soup pot, cover with water and turn on high heat. You will need to bring to a boil then boil for 10 minutes to sterilize. Put the lid on to make this go a little faster.

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Put all the fruit into a wide, shallow saucepan. Turn heat to medium high, bring to a simmer and cook the fruit down a smudge, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. IMG_0261

Add the sugar all at once and stir well to incorporate; keep stirring until it all dissolves. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a brisk simmer stirring frequently and skimming any foam off the top; if you don’t skim the foam your jam won’t be as clear and may have pockets of white foam that gels into it.

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Keep an eye on the mixture, stirring frequently so it doesn’t cook down too much and scorch on the bottom. Gradually you’ll notice the color and viscosity change and you may catch a glimpse of the bottom of the pot as you stir through the jam. It’s getting close!

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By now your jars should be done with the 10 minute sterilization. Hold them in the hot water until the jam is ready. Bring a kettle to the boil, put the sealing lid inserts in a wide, flat pan and pour boiling water over them.

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Pull the jars out of the canning pot, emptying out all water and place on a clean surface. Using a wide mouth canning funnel, ladle the jam into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace at the top – no less and no more. Put the sealing lids and rings on and tighten then put the full jars back in the canner making sure each is covered by at least 1/2″ water. Bring back to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. This is called processing and makes the jam shelf-stable for at least 6 months or more.

When your timer goes off, pull the jars out and place on a tray or tea towel to cool down. It can take up to 24 hours for the jars to seal and when they do you may hear a “pop”.

Label and put the jam away for a rainy or snowy day. Rest easy knowing that, just like the squirrels, you’ve done your part to store up supplies for the winter ahead.

Bowled Over

Meal bowls are an easy way to get dinner on the table in a jiffy. In my recent article on Zester Daily  I explore the topic and give some recipes using seasonal ingredients and tips on how to creatively repurpose leftovers into yummy bowls for every meal of the day.

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This savory yogurt bowl doubles as a fantastic dip with pita chips or crudités.

Green grass and springtime

I was lucky enough to go on a tour recently of Bellwether Farms sheep creamery. The Callahan family has been making a variety of dairy products using both sheep and cow’s milk for almost twenty years on the property. Some of their most popular offerings are ricotta, creme fraiche and fresh and aged Italian style cheeses such as pepato and crescent.

During my visit, cheesemaker Liam Callahan was making a batch of ricotta in two 250-gallon steam kettles. Here is the moment the mixture started to form curds.IMG_1798

The ricotta is ladled into baskets and left to drain before packaging.

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The sheep milk ricotta (they make jersey cow milk version as well) is luscious and creamy without a hint of the grittiness often found in commodity ricotta. Once home, I set about creating a simple pasta that highlights this delicate cheese and incorporates the bounty of spring produce at the market now.

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Bow tie pasta is cooked with shelled English peas and asparagus then drained – be sure to save a little pasta water for the sauce!

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The drained pasta is mixed with the veggies, Meyer lemon zest, ricotta and grated Parmesan. A splash of pasta water creates just the right texture while the ricotta melts in to the ingredients resulting in a light, creamy sauce.

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Buono Appetito!

Spring Pasta with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

1/2 lb. farfalle pasta

1 c. shelled English peas

1 cup asparagus, woody ends broken off, cut in 1″ pieces

1 heaping teaspoon of Meyer lemon zest

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more for serving

1/2-12 oz. basket of Bellwether sheep milk ricotta

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of fiercely salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and peas, stir and set your timer for 7 minutes. When the timer goes off, add the asparagus and set the timer for 4 minutes. Taste the pasta and vegetables for doneness then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water as you go. Put the drained pasta and veggies back in the pot and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and add a little pasta water, if necessary, to loosen the dish and create a saucy texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide amongst plates and pass extra Parmesan for the top. Yield: 4 servings

 

 

Citrus time

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The plethora of citrus fruit in market bins right now is inspiring. For ideas on how to use it all, check out my article on Zester Daily:

http://zesterdaily.com/fruit-wrecipe/zesty-citrus-fruits-brighten-winter-meals/