Pommes de Terre Duchesse

While browsing the list of potato dishes on the source of all that is right and correct on the internet, I stumbled upon the page for Duchess potatoes and knew instantly that I had to have a go at making them. As luck would have it, there just happened to be three egg yolks in the fridge, so rather than waiting, I headed home to make some.

My only real worry, was the piping of the mashed potato, as I’ve never piped anything before. As it turned out, it wasn’t too difficult, although the end result left rather a lot to be desired in the consistency stakes. I’m not too disappointed though, as consistency in something like piping, is only achieved through lots and lots of practice. So I might have to start piping the mash onto the top of things like Shepherd Pie to gain the necessary experience.

As the Wikipedia article was a bit vague on the length of time these should be cooked for, I decided to pop them into the oven, with the fan on and the temperature set to 220°C. Duchess potatoes fresh from the oven... I took them out after twenty minutes, as they looked nice and brown and the outside and felt dry and solid to the touch.

If I’m being honest, hey weren’t that great. They were far too dry and were crying out to be slathered in some sort of gravy or sauce. I’ll put that down to baking them for too long, maybe you’re just supposed to do it long enough that they take a bit of colour. Maybe that’s why the temperature was stated to be 240°C, get colour on them quickly, then get them out while they’re still moist and a bit squidgy. It’s certainly something to bear in mind if I ever do them again, which I might very well do…

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been baking a lot of bread recently, at least one loaf per week, sometimes as many as three. All of them have just been my usual mix of 400g of Strong White, along with 100g of Rye, which I quite like. I wanted to try some sort of enriched bread though, something like a Gugelhupf or a Panettone, but as I had neither a Gugelhupf or a Panettone tin, I decided to have another attempt at some Brioche

I hadn’t realised that it had been so long since I’d last attempted some Brioche, nearly two years, so was keen to try again. Rather than use the recipe from Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3, I decided to use the one on Paul Hollywood’s website. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve found that I’m getting better results using Paul’s recipes, rather than Dan’s. Brioche dough trying to escape... It might just be that I’m not over proving my bread anymore, either way, Paul’s recipes just seem to produce nice bread.

I mixed up the dough and stuck it into the fridge before going out for the evening. I popped back to the house to pick something up a few hours later and opened the fridge to check on the dough, it had decided to try and break free from its shackles and was almost out of its container. There was me thinking that yeast doesn’t work at low temperatures, the Allinson dried active baking yeast that my wife accidently bought (it was supposed to be the Doves Farm quick yeast) certainly seemed happy enough to keep going for a couple of hours at least.

The following morning I shaped the dough, which was still quite sticky and pliable, into a ball and popped it into our 23cm springform tin and left it on the work surface to rise. I was a bit worried that the yeast might have exhausted itself in the fridge the night before, so after a couple of hours of inactivity, I put the tin onto a bit of work surface that had sunlight on it. Hey Presto, it’s Safeway, an hour later the dough was peeking over the top of the tin, so into the oven it went.

It required a few minutes longer than the time stated in the recipe, but then the tin I used was also an inch smaller, so presumably the Brioche was a bit thicker and needed a few extra minutes to finish. Brioche, with mulled pears, sour cream and pomegranate molasses... It came out of the tin with no issues and was left to cool while we all went down the pub for a few halves of Oakham Green Devil IPA. I must have been going on and on about it down the pub, as I ended up coming home and cutting a few slices to share around the pub garden.

The end result was fantastic, if I do say so myself, the kids must have thought so too, as they were even asking for it in the mornings before school. As I had a kilner jar of mulled pears that hadn’t sealed, I toasted some of the Brioche and had some of the pears, with some sour cream and pomegranate molasses for my breakfast. Any day that starts with a slab of toasted Brioche has to be a good day.

Quince and Pear Tart

Quince and Pear Tart

One weekend a few months back, I decided that I’d like to bake a fruit tart. My first thoughts were along the lines of a traditional apple affair, but as we had some quince and pears kicking around, I decided to use those instead.

I knew I wanted to use the quince, but I wasn’t sure what else to use. I opened my copy of the Flavour Thesaurus, expecting it to be replete with quince pairings, but found only the one, mentioned as part of the Apple & Pear entry. Luckily it mentioned that quince was the ideal thing to flavour apple or pear tarts with, which is just as well, as I wanted to use up some pears I’d been given.

The Flavour Thesaurus also mentioned grating the quince, and adding it skin and all, which is what I did. I knew the gratings would have been be cooked for a while, along with the chopped up pears, so decided to adapt Tony Singh‘s Apple crumble with star anise recipe from The Incredible Spice Men, mainly as everyone knows that star anaise and pears go togeather. I was just after the way he par-cooked the filling, rather than the crumble topping.

Filling sorted, I hoicked my copy of the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book off the shelf and opened it at the pages dealing with pastry. I knew I was after some sort of sweetened shortcrust and decided to go with a pâte sucrée, rather than a pâte brisée. I decided not to blind bake the pastry, as being sweetened, I was convinced that it would be fine. So I lined a loose bottomed flan tin with the pastry and ladled the filling into it.

I’ll be honest and say I was a bit worried, as the filling was quite wet, from all the pear and quince juice, plus all the butter. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I put the top on and plopped it into the oven. I needn’t have worried though, as the pastry was fine, even though a bit of juice did come bubbling out of the slits I’d cut in the top. A quick sprinkle with some caster sugar and it was left to cool for a bit, before we had it for pudding. The leftovers lasted for a few days, they made lunchtimes at work just that extra bit tasty.

I’m normally that kind of person who slavishly follows a recipe and gets very stressed when things aren’t going according to the instructions. I was quite impressed with myself for managing to knock this up from inspiration, rather than than from a found recipe. I was going to list all the ingredients and the method I’d used etc, but to be honest, I sort of winged it. If you’ve found this page because you want to make something similar, then I hope I’ve given you enough hints and pointers to the books and recipes that inspired me, so you can figure out what I did.

Leftovers

Refried bean hash browns...

An attempt at some sort of refried bean hash browns.

Using up leftovers always reminds me of why I follow recipes. Take the photo above as an example, it doesn’t look very appetizing does it? I had some leftovers to use up and as I like potatoes, I decided to have an attempt at some sort of hash browns, with the addition of some leftover beans. I’ve not really attempted hash browns before, as I’m still trying to cook a decent rösti. There appears to be so many different ways to make hash browns, that it feels like it’s just a make it up as you go along type of thing, which isn’t really isn’t my kind of cooking at all.

Having decided to give them a go, I parboiled some tatties and left them to dry out a bit. I then cubed them and added them to a frying pan that had some melted butter and olive oil in it. After a liberal sprinkling of sweet smoked paprika and the addition of the beans, it was just a case of moving everything around the pan to stop it sticking and burning. I paired these with some avocado and sour cream on the side and they were nice enough, in that they filled a hole.

If I do them again, I’ll be using a non-stick frying pan, as then I wont have to stand over it for the entire cooking process to ensure it doesn’t catch. I’ll also parboiled the tatties for a bit longer, as it took awhile for them to cook all the way through. In fact, I might just be best to cook them all the way through the night before and leave them in the fridge, but then that would require some sort of forward planning. I might have to start experimenting a bit more with this kind of thing though, as the variations appear endless.

Thoughts on Rösti

A rather nasty rösti...

I’ve been on holiday recently, which is one of the reasons for a lack of posts, the other is a lack of enthusiasm for writing at the moment; more on that in another post. I thought I’d try and get back into the swing of things, with a few notes about my further adventures in cooking rösti:

  • I cooked a rösti the other night, but as we had no butter in the house, I used only olive oil. This resulted in an oily, unsatisfying taste. I also forgot to season the thing, which really didn’t help. So always season your tatties and always use some butter to ensure a better tasting end result.
  • I tried to make a really thick rösti a few months ago; I cooked it inside a ring, so it would look nice. It didn’t cook evenly all the way through though, as it was too thick. I ended up having to baste the top of it with the butter/oil mix, so that all of it cooked through. This all meant that it ended up as a large lump of greasy half cooked grated potato. It wasn’t very nice, just look at it in the photo above! So don’t make your rösti too thick.

Fried Butterbeans with Feta, Sorrel and Sumac

Fried Butterbeans with Feta, Sorrel and Sumac

I’ve made this Yotam Ottolenghi Fried Butterbeans with Feta, Sorrel and Sumac dish a couple of times now and I really quite like it. I’ve not been able to find any sorrel though, so I’ve always made it with baby spinach and extra lemon juice instead. Since I haven’t found any sorrel locally, I’ve resorted to buying some seeds and am trying to grown my own, just so I can taste this dish as it is meant to be.

The one thing I’ve found though, is the success of the dish is dependent on the quality of the dried butterbeans. One packet of dried beans is too much for the recipe, so you have some left over. You may want to make sure you use the same, or similar, brand of beans and especially make sure that you use beans that are dried to a similar level. Otherwise when you mix packets, you’ll find that the beans cook at different rates and you end up with some of the your beans turning to mush, while others are under cooked.

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad

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I’ve made this Yotam Ottolenghi Mango and Coconut Rice Salad a number of times, it’s a firm favorite. A couple of things though; don’t use rancid coconut flakes, make sure they’re relatively fresh, nothing worse than munching on rancid coconut flakes. Also, it’s currently the arse end of the alphonso mango season at the moment, so do yourself a favour and pop down to your local exotic ingredients shop and buy some; your taste buds will thank you.

Bramley Lemon Curd

I love lemon curd, I always have. I used to bug Mum to buy jars of the hard set luminous yellow stuff when I was a kid. I can remember the first time I tried proper lemon curd, it was at my Granny’s house after school one day. After tasting it, there was no going back to the processed stuff, it just wasn’t in the same league.

I’ve toyed with the idea of making it for myself for years, but like most thing, I’ve never got round to it. But once we bought the Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2 I knew that I finally had to give it a go. Since my wee boy had recently enjoyed some passion fruit curd, I asked him if he wanted to help, he said yes. He changed his mind on the day though, preferring to play with his Lego, but then my wee lassie decided that she wanted to help.

It was pretty easy to make if I’m being honest, although it took waaaaaaay longer than the book suggested. I’m not sure why, but I think a combination of a smallish pan and a big thick pyrex bowl, meant that it was sitting quite far away from the simmering water. The book says to stir over a gentle heat, but in the end I had it on full whack and it still took fifty minutes, rather than the stated nine to ten, to reach the required 83°C.

Next time I make it, I’ll definitely be putting the bowl on the widest pan we have, so it sits further in and closer to the boiling water. I’ll also use slightly less apple, as I this batch wasn’t lemony enough for my tastes. Their variation of using gooseberries instead of the apples sounds interesting though, especially as I’ve just planted two gooseberry bushes in the garden.

Chocolate Truffles

I bought Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian last year and if I’m being honest, I’ve not used it enough, not nearly enough. I’ve made a few things out of it though, including a couple of the batches of the chocolate truffles, using differing flavour combinations. The first one I tried, was the rosemary and sea salt combination, which I made as a Christmas present for my wife. They didn’t go down well…

I thought they are OK, which is just as well, as I ended up having to eat the lot! To be fair, they were quite strong, with the rosemary imparting quite a powerful taste. I’m not overly surprised that they polarised opinion in the house because of that. To make amends, I made my wife another batch of truffles, this time, using the pomegranate and mint flavour combination, mainly as I had some mint stalks left over and we have a bottle of pomegranate molasses in the house. These went down a lot better, although they still didn’t get finished.

This time it was the flavour of the pomegranate molasses that didn’t go down as well as it should have. It’s got quite a sharp sweet sour tang thing going on, and maybe I put it a bit too much in, I liked them though, even if they were a bit on the soft side. I think the next batch will use the cardamom and orange flavour combination, hopefully it’ll be third time lucky…

Rösti

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It was another of those Monday evenings when I was home alone, my wife was at the gym and I’d managed to get the kids off to bed with minimal fuss. I knew that dinner was going to include potatoes, but I just didn’t know how I was going to cook them. I’d attempted a rösti once in dim distant past, so decided that it was about time I had another crack at one.

A quick search on the internet turned up Felicity Cloake’s Guardian column on How to cook the perfect rösti, which seemed like a good place to start. As I didn’t have time to let them cool, I decided to go against her advice and didn’t cook my potatoes first. As you can see from the photos, I ruined a tea towel as I was ringing out all the moisture after grating them, just make sure you use a strong one.

I probably used a bit too much olive oil and I definitely used too much butter when I flipped the rösti after cooking the first side. I tried to mop up the excess with a sheet or two of kitchen paper, but it did feel a touch on the oily/buttery side when it came to be eaten. And nice eating it was too, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, I was quite pleased for a first attempt.

I’ve had a rösti for dinner another couple of times since this first attempt. The second one wasn’t as good, I’m not sure it was any different, but it just didn’t feel as good. The third one, which I had just the other night, was by far the best I’ve made. I used three potatoes, so it was quite thick, but there was no problem with it holding together as it cooked.

All three have used raw potato, I’ve not parboiled and to be honest, I don’t see the point, as that would really require me to decide the night before that I was going to have one. The first two both used butter and/or olive oil, the third solely used ghee and was the driest and least greasy of the three. This may have been due to there being more potato to soak it all up though. I didn’t season the first two, at least I can’t remember seasoning them. With the third one, I ground some pepper and salt onto the raw potato after I’d grated it though.

I like having a rösti for tea, it’s definitely something you can experiment with each time.