Thursday, 10 December 2009

Wham Bam Thank You Jam and the Drunken Monkey

Over the last six months I’ve managed to amass around 20 different types of chutney, pickle and jam. They currently inhabit the entire top shelf of my fridge and I swear they are multiplying. I like to imagine them having a very vinegary and sugary party, every time I shut the door, though I doubt they have enough room to do any dancing.

I’ve managed to stop myself from buying anymore preserves now, but I just couldn’t help making some when I discovered a couple of very simple recipes. I assumed that jam making would be terribly tricky, but it turns out that the only thing you need lots of is patience. The final stage when it’s almost at setting point seems to last for an age, but it’s well worth the wait to stand back and see lots of neat little jam jars, filled with deliciousness.

The first batch, forever more called ‘Wham Bam, Thank You Jam’, is a tweaked version of a recipe from Delicious. It has a gorgeous chilli, lemongrass and ginger tang. I doubled the ingredients (if you’re going to the trouble of making jam, why on earth would you only want 3 jars at the end of it?), I didn’t bother deseeding the chillies (I like ridiculously hot food, as you may have guessed from my previous post, Hot Pot), and I used an extra couple of lemon grass sticks. It’s vital to use bloody good tomatoes for this recipe. They need plenty of flavour. If you’re uncertain, give them a sniff in the shop and if they don’t make you feel like you’re six years old again, helping your Granddad select the best fruit from the greenhouse, don’t bother.

The second batch, now known as ‘The Drunken Monkey’, mainly consists of banana, pineapple and dark rum. It came from The World Wide Gourmet. Again, I doubled the ingredients though and also added a little pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to make it extra warming. I’d recommend putting it on a hot pancake with some west country clotted cream.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A Good Pint of Cider and Some Chicken Pie

Over the last few months I have found myself longing for Dorset. Having spent my formative years in a little town called Sherborne, surrounded by fields and forests, the city where I live now can seem practically barren at times. Brighton does of course have its share of open spaces, not forgetting the beach itself, but it’s just not the same. Earlier this year, I got all misty-eyed while watching Morris: A Life with Bells On, my heart aching for countryside and, more importantly, a good pint of cider.

There’s something utterly transporting about the taste of that fruity brew. The first sip always pulls me back to autumn mornings, looking over the River Purley, the mist curling down from the road as I walked our dog. And fresh lardy cake from Oxford’s Bakery… God, the taste of that would drive my brother crazy. He would eat an entire one to himself, every Saturday morning; I have no idea how he’s turned out so athletic. Oh, and cheese and apple. I have vivid memories of my Dad slicing an apple with his enormous hands (hot in any weather) and devouring it with slabs of local cheddar. And my Mum’s chicken pie. I haven’t had that in years, but I still recall the flakiness of the puff pastry as it mingled with the simple, thick sauce and the incredibly tender meat. I am drooling at the thought.

Cheers Mum:
4 free-range chicken breasts (don’t insult the dish with unhappy meat)
A couple of handfuls of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ red onion, roughly chopped
½ pint chicken stock (if you can make your own, here’s a great recipe)
Enough pastry to cover a 30cm pie dish (a deep one)
A sprig of fresh rosemary
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Corn flour for thickening
A little olive oil
1 egg yolk

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Place a pie bird in the pie dish (this isn’t vital, but does prevent it from sagging or bubbling over the side). Cut the meat into bite size chunks, then coat in the corn flour. Brown the chicken quickly in a hot pan with the olive oil, then remove and place in the bottom of the pie dish. Using the same pan, brown the onion, then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes. Scoop the mixture into the pie dish over the chicken and pour on the stock. Add seasoning and herbs and stir. Brush a little of the egg yolk onto the pie dish lip and cover the whole thing with the pastry, cutting away any excess and making a hole for the pie bird. Put a little more yolk over the pastry to ensure a lovely colour. Pop it in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. Remove and devour.

Photo courtesy of Dan.