Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Roast Duck with Plum and Russet Confit*

A visit by the parents for Sunday lunch is a potentially daunting experience. Especially if you have grown up with consistently delicious Sunday lunches produced in a seemingly effortless manner. So when the folks arrived for a weekend with their London-based sprogs, and treated us to a West End show, I knew I had to impress.

Error number one was assuming they would be late, and that I'd have time to nip to the butchers, before they arrived on Saturday. When the Ellis' broke with tradition and arrived on time, I was taken a back. Therefore I resorted to popping to the Co-op on Sunday morning to find, to my horror, that they'd run out of free range chickens. I threw caution to the wind and bought a freedom-food endorsed duck. Never cooked it before, and a wee bit pricey, so the pressure was on.

I discovered to my delight that a duck is such a fatty little blighter that you barely need to do anything to prepare it for a roasting. Just rub on a bit of salt, prick the skin to allow the fat to drain off, and ensure it is raised (either on a wrack or on top of some crumpled silver foil in a roasting tin) so that the fat can drip down.

It was a relatively quick roast** but still allowed time for the obligatory Ellis Family Run around Dulwich Park while it was cooking (we're not eccentric, we're just strange, as my Granny always used to say). About 3 times during the cooking you can drain the fat away and pour it over the roast potatoes - it makes the most deliciously crispy golden roasties in the world. I put the potatoes in the oven at the same time as the bird, so that had time to cook nice and slowly. I put a wee bit of oil on to start with, but then added the duck fat once the bird started cooking.

The other joy of this duck purchase was that it included giblets - wonderfully underrated organs that make the most delicious gravy. Just bring to the boil in some water with a carrot, an onion, black peppercorns and a bay leaf and simmer for at least an hour and a half. Then pour thorough a sieve into another pan and use as the basis for your gravy. I just added some duck fat, fried up some more carrot and onion and then liquidised.

Finally, I knew that duck works well with plum. We happened to have two rogue plums in the cupboard. We had also just bought some delicious English russet apples. So I peeled and chopped the fruit, and brought to the boil with a bit of water (approx 200ml), a splash of cider vinegar, a cinnamon stick, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger. I kept the plum stones in as I knew from my jam making experience that this would help it thicken and set. I simmered it for about 15-20 minutes until gorgeously sticky. I was especially pleased with this creation as I usually rely on recipe books. I decided that this concoction was probably a confit, although I realise this probably just means that I have been watching too much Masterchef.

I served the juicy duck with the crunchy potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, the creamy gravy and sweet confit.

Empty plates all round, and a nod of approval from the Mother. Phew

Jules xx

*I have clearly been watching too much Masterchef

** Preheat the oven to 230C, cooking time is 1hour 50 mins for a 1.8kg duck. Leave to stand for 20 mins before carving.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

St. John Bread & Wine

St John Bread & Wine by Charlotte

Nose to tail eating. A concept that to some may seem rather unrefined, when really it is the best way to eat; you cook every part of the animal, indulging in dishes and cooking methods that are novel, inventive and definitely worth talking about.

A pig’s head - euugh! The imagination goes wild, a large blackened pig’s face looking at you as you daintily cut off his cheek and chew it down, while trying not to look him in the eye. In reality, St John Bread & Wine is an informal eatery (initially intended as a bakery to service the St John restaurant), with small tables and unassuming chairs, plain walls and chefs whizzing about in the background. You choose wine and dishes in a tapas fashion, sharing plates of gorgeous food as and when they arrive at your table. This is possibly my favourite way to eat, you can share and try lots of things, chat in depth about each mouthful and not get food envy!

So, on the night in question, we ate- pig’s head, which came as a light stew packed with incredibly tender meat and seasonal vegetables; ox heart with winter leaves and capers, a wicked dish which really got my taste buds dancing; mallard, big pink, meaty chunks of it, with tiny black elderberries; beetroot and goats curd salad, a creamy tasty compliment to our meat feast; and finally a dish of pork and sprout tops, an amazing slab of perfectly cooked pork with the biggest and greenest sprout leaves I have ever seen. For dessert we shared a gingerloaf pudding with a super sweet buttersc0tch sauce and a ball of vanilla ice-cream. And to drink we had some sparkling wine (it was a celebration after all).

The price is right, that is, it’s not too expensive, I will be going back soon and already have a list of different people that I’d like to share food with at St John.

The atmosphere is perfect for a lazy lunch or dinner, great for a group of friends. And if you really do want to eat a whole pig, you can! For a mere £330 (for 14-16 people) and provided you order a week in advance you and your pork loving chums can tuck into the whole hog!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Keston Kitchen Birthday Cake

This month is the one year anniversary of the Keston Kitchen blog! In order to celebrate our first birthday I decided to make a cake to mark the occasion.
If you have read Julia's previous post about the exciting calendar announcement you will have seen the fabulous new logo which has been created for us by Nick Ritchie. The logo was the obvious choice for the birthday cake design.
I knew it needed to be a fairly substantial cake to do the logo justice, so I turned to my friend Abbie in her capacity as the office baking expert and general wizard with icing for advice. Abbie suggested making a Madeira cake and text me the recipe her and her mum use for many of their cake creations.
Madeira was definitely the right choice as the result was a sturdy cake that was easy to cut in half to add a filling and it provided a nice flat surface for icing. Although solid, it was not too heavy and had a lovely subtle lemon flavour.

The ingredients below are for a 7 inch round or 6 inch square tin, I was filling a 9 inch square tin and so used 7 eggs instead of 3 and adjusted all the other quantities accordingly.

175g butter (room temperature)
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
225g self raising flour
pinch of salt
dribble of milk
grated zest of 1 lemon

Line a 7 inch round cake tin with greased baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 170C.
Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together with a fork, making sure the ingredients are fully combined and the mixture has a paler appearance than when you started.
Whisk in the eggs and then fold in the flour a bit at a time.
Finally add a little milk until the cake mixture is a soft drop consistency.
Scoop the mixture into the lined tin and make sure it is levelled off so it does not rise unevenly.
Place in the oven and cook for 1-1.25 hours until a skewer comes out of the centre of the cake clean (the larger cake took about 1.5 hour)

By the time the cake had cooled last sunday, I'd run out of energy for the icing part (plus we had to fit in watching an episode of the Wire that evening) so the cake lived in a tin for a couple of days before completion.
I sliced the cake in half and filled it with strawberry jam and whipped cream. I then heated a bit more jam with a splash of water to make a glaze to help the icing stick to the cake.
I used a packet of white icing which comes ready to roll. I used a 1kg packet for this cake but if you are making a 7 inch round cake a 500g packet would do.
After covering the cake in a layer of icing a few mm thick I cut out the design from the remaining icing using a stencil I created from a print out of the logo. Abs advised me to paint the food colouring onto the icing rather than mixing it in to produce a more vivid colour.

I left the painted icing letters to dry before putting them on the cake (just using water as glue) and so finished it hastily in the morning before work. We had a quick candle ceremony before I chopped it up to distribute to the other Keston Kids and the office where I work.
I was concerned the it may not have been as enjoyable 3 days after it was baked but the Madeira cake was still yummy and by the end of wednesday at work there were only a few crumbs left as evidence.

Thanks for your help Abbie (and Mrs M)

Rachael x

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


A taster: November afternoon tea

************ PUBLIC ADDRESS **************

The Keston Kitchen has 2 very important announcements.

1. We have been branded! For those of you not on facebook, here it is:

(New-look blog coming soon)

Created for us by the amazing designer Nick Ritchie, who is also an awesome dude.

2. You may have noticed that there was less blog activity than usual during October. This is because the Keston Kids have been very busy with an exciting new project: The Keston Kitchen 2011 Calendar. Now, before you ask, this is not one of those calendars - we decided to break the trend and be photographed with our clothes on. (We know, there was great potential for strategically placed buns, but maybe next year). No, this calendar is all about the food…. and us, looking a wee bit silly, but with clothes on.

Each month will feature an original, seasonal recipe, and the calendar as a whole will reflect the variety of dishes conjured up in the Keston Kitchen. And, most importantly of all, all profits will go to a good cause! We get so much enjoyment from food, we wanted to put a wee bit back, and will be giving all proceeds to an awesome soup kitchen / shelter in Victoria, London: www.thepassage.org.uk.

All the photographs have been taken by the amazing Pierre Maelzer, who, like Nick, has given up hours of his time for free for the Keston Kitchen and our charity project. So if you are at a loss for what to buy loved ones at Christmas, or just can't get enough of the Keston Kitchen, order your copy today! They cost £10 each - not cheap but they will look amazing and we wanted to raise a good amount for The Passage. If you would like to order a copy, email thekestonkitchen@googlemail.com to place your order. We will then reply with payment and delivery details.

Trust us, no Kitchen in 2011 will be complete without The Keston Kitchen Calendar hanging on the wall. Definitely the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
Jules, Ceri, Charl and Rach. xxx

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Perfect Pud for Autumn - Poached Pears in Red Wine.

Love pears - these ones were for Charl and Matt x

I made this as the dessert for Charlotte's birthday meal. After Rachael's deliciously rich and creamy garlic tart (our last post), I felt the need for a lighter pud. I have to say, this dessert surprised me - how can you make pears in red wine taste like anything other than pears in red wine? Well, by infusing them for hours in a sweet, spicy, warm liquid so that it soaks through the flesh and transforms the humble pear into a succulent, delicately flavoured morsel of delight - that's how!

It's a fairly easy pud to make. However, you do need to prepare the pears the night before - trust me, it's worth it as it means that the pears are entirely soaked through and also frees you up to make the main course/starter when it comes to the day.

One downside to this dessert - if you have a foodie who is somewhat impatient hanging around (aka Charlotte), they can become a bit whiney. Charlotte arrived home from her romantic birthday meal with Matt (at St John, no less - if you nag her she'll do a review), by which point the smell of mulling wine had transfused the house. Cue the whining. No Charlie, I know it's your birthday today but you really do have to wait until tomorrow. And then, after she had tasted the fruit, the whining intensified: Ju - leeeene! When are you going to make those pears again? When?

Well, it's lucky Charlotte's got such a pretty face. It just so happens I can't resist the English pears that are in the shops at the moment, and have some stowed away in the cupboard. Maybe if she's a good girl at the weekend…Jules xxx

This recipe below is based on a Heston Blumethal - but with unnecessary fancy bits taken out. It is the only Heston recipe I have ever made, as I generally consider him to be out of my culinary league… but do not fear, this one really is quite easy.

Pears poached in red wine

You will need a casserole large enough to fit the pears in one layer.

Serves 6-8

8-10 ripe pears (allow 1-2 pears per person depending on their size)

1 bottle red wine

200ml crème de cassis

(NB I didn't have any creme de casis, but I did find a random cherry liqueur in the cupboard that seemed to work very well! If you don't have any appropriate booze, use an extra 100g sugar)

200g sugar

1 cinnamon stick

6 cloves

1 star anise

zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

Bring the wine to a boil, flame it to reduce some of its acidity and add all the other ingredients.

Meanwhile prepare the pears. Peel them and remove the core so that they will cook evenly the whole way through. To do this, insert the tip of a normal peeler into the base of the pear, just on the edge of the core, push it into the fruit and turning the peeler around the core, cut it out.

The liquid will have cooled down a little. Place the pears side by side and top with a disk of greaseproof paper, the diameter of the pan, with holes pierced in it. Press down slightly so that some of the poaching liquid comes through the holes made in the paper, keeping the pears submerged during the cooking. If the liquid does not cover the pears, add a little water until it does.

Place the casserole back on the heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. As soon as this happens, turn the heat down and cook at a very gentle simmer, just enough to form the odd bubble on the surface of the water.

Cook until the pears are done; you can test this by inserting a small pointed knife into the flesh. If it goes in with little resistance, they are ready. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool. When cold, carefully transfer the fruit to a sealable container. If you have added some extra water now reduce the liquid to the required consistency and taste.

Pour the liquid over the pears in their container and store in the fridge for at least one day. The pears will keep for a week in the poaching liquid. Serve hot or cold and adjust the consistency of the liquid as required.