Tag Archives: ginger

Homemade Worcestershire Sauce – the 2014 edit

I’ve updated the original with my latest tweaks, and there’s still time to make this for Christmas.

A jar of Worcestershire Sauce steeping prior to being bottled.

I was quite surprised when I first found a recipe in one of Gary Rhodes’ books for Worcestershire Sauce, given that this is supposed to be one of world’s best kept secrets, the recipe only discussed by ‘those who know’ in the middle of a field. Anyway I made it as per Gary’s instructions for several years and it always went down very well with people who received it as a Christmas present – very good for cheese on toast apparently, as any Worcestershire Sauce worthy of the name should be. And then the there was the bombshell in 2009 of a Lee and Perrins employee apparently finding the original recipe in a skip! So much for the field, but frankly little we couldn’t have already deduced from the label, which brings me back to Mr Rhodes. Why, in his recipe, did he ignore so much of what the bottle already tells us about its contents? He includes no molasses or tamarind. I have added them back in, along with one or two touches of my own.

So whilst I don’t think Lea and Perrins should shut up shop just yet, if you fancy spicing up Christmas for your nearest and dearest you’ve still got time.

Should make a little over 1 litre

  • 1 litre malt vinegar
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 50g salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 birds-eye chilli, deseeded
  • 1 tbsp muscovado sugar
  • 3 tbsps soy sauce
  • 2 tsps tamarind paste
  • 10 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods, bruised with the back of a knife
  • 1 quarter tsp cinnamon and a piece of cinnamon or cassia bark
  • 1 third of a nutmeg [grated] and few blades of mace
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp good quality fish sauce [such as ‘Three Crabs’ brand]*

Place the vinegar, shallots and garlic into a pan and slowly bring to a simmer. Dribble in the treacle and stir well to dissolve, then allow to tremble gently for twenty minutes or so. Add all the other ingredients and stir well then cook for a couple of minutes more. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly as you warm a large glass jar in a low oven. Pour the warm mixture into the warmed jar and seal. This now needs to sit for a week, ten days, or even a fortnight, and should be shaken each time you pass the jar. Mine sits on the washing machine so that the spin cycle can shake it for me when I’m out.

When ready strain through a fine sieve, heat until just below simmering for two minutes, and when still warm decant into heated sterilised bottles. Never pour hot liquids into cold glass bottles, or cold liquids into hot ones – they should both be quite warm. Then seal and keep somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight until needed. There will be some sediment and you’ll need to shake the bottle before each use. I’d also keep the bottle in the fridge once opened.

Now then, who’s for cheese on toast and a Bloody Mary?

* If you saw my piece on Uyen Luu’s cooking class you’ll know about my conversion to proper, good quality fish sauce, and I wouldn’t dream of using cheap nam pla here.

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Baked Figs

Figs ready for baking, with ginger wine, honey and rosemary.

It’s fair to say I wasn’t expecting a heart attack. Frankly Monty Python had more of an inkling about the Spanish Inquisition, and we all know how expected that was. Yes, I had the genetic predisposition and lived the lifestyle – but ticking all the boxes doesn’t always win you the main prize. Not always…

This time though I knew I must have hit some kind of jackpot because blue lights started flashing, sirens wailed and the machine wired up to my chest made frequent, frantic beeping noises. Turns out this prize was life-saving, piercing-edge, percutaneous surgery, and the specialist teams at the West Middlesex and Hammersmith Hospitals have earned – in every sense – my undying gratitude.

So now I’m faced with a choice food-wise: renounce totally anything enjoyable but potentially naughty and live out my days in the epicurean equivalent of a hair shirt, or expend some additional effort on finding foods that are both healthy and beautiful [whilst admitting the odd something sinful from time to time]. Actually you make the same choice several times every day, this sort of thing just has a way of turning decisions into DECISIONS.

Well I’ve made mine. And I will not go hungry into that good night.

I served this with a splodge of low fat crème fraîche, which would actually have been my choice before all the cardiac kerfuffle.

Feeds three or four

  • 12 ripe medium-sized figs
  • 100ml ginger wine
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • a good drizzle of honey, about a tablespoon and a half [vegans can replace with a sprinkling of brown sugar]
  • a few small sprigs of rosemary
  • crème fraîche to serve [optional]

Slash the figs with deep, quartering cuts almost all the way through, and arrange snugly in a shallow dish. Whisk the spice and vanilla into the ginger wine and pour over the figs. Drizzle the honey over and into the figs, strew the rosemary sprigs about, and bake in a 190C oven for 25 minutes to half an hour. Baste with the juices once or twice during cooking, and spoon over plenty as you serve.

Wallpaper* Duck

This is the duck just before it goes into the oven.

It will come as either a great disappointment or a huge relief to discover that this recipe does not in fact contain any wallpaper. Duck yes, Sanderson print or Anaglypta no. The name comes from the fact that I have based this on one which appeared in the launch issue of Wallpaper* Magazine way back in 1996.

When Tyler Brûlé’s original style bible first hit the newsstands I was one of the salivating fashionistas desperately drooling over the dreamily hip lifestyle portrayed within its pages. The editor’s eye for a handsome male model [first time I’d seen two pretty boys cavorting in an expensive hotel pool for a mainstream magazine travel piece!] certainly didn’t hurt.

Fifteen years on it’s interesting to see what has and hasn’t changed in the world of über-cool lifestyle publishing. In the resources section of the launch issue not a single supplier lists a ‘website’, and the London phone numbers begin with either 0171 or 0181 [not many of the latter though!]. But you could take just about any of the pieces devoted to beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes and surrounded by beautiful stuff and drop them into a magazine tomorrow and I swear no-one would bat a perfectly mascara-ed eyelid.

One thing that has certainly endured through the years for me though is my somewhat re-calibrated version of this dish. Perhaps it’s just a sign of the ever increasing speed with which the fashion wheel spins that when I make this roughly two or three times a year it now probably counts as a ‘revival’! The original came from a piece about how we trendy young things were reclaiming and re-inventing Sunday lunch, and even came with a playlist. Whatever day you choose to serve it, just don’t forget to be ravishingly beautiful when you do…

For two, though there may be some leftover sauce to play with

  • 2 duck legs
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3cm ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 150ml light chicken stock
  • 200ml red wine
  • 50ml Japanese soy sauce
  • Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 soupspoons runny honey
  • 2 whole star anise

Preheat your oven to 180˚C. In a heavy lidded casserole on a highish heat brown the duck legs all over and season them with salt and pepper as you go, then remove them from the pot and the pot from the heat, and pour off all but a scant tablespoonful of the fat which will have been rendered from the duck [excess duck fat can be saved and used later for roast potatoes]. Pop this back onto a gentle heat and sauté the garlic and ginger until softened but not coloured. Add all the liquids and simmer for five minutes.

Smear the browned duck legs with the five spice powder and return them to the pan. The liquid should come to no higher than halfway up the legs, and if scaling up this recipe keep the proportions the same but only add enough liquor to reach the same height in your pan. Drizzle a soupspoon of honey over each leg and top it with a star anise. Cover and give this an hour and fifteen minutes in the oven.

Whack the oven up to 230˚C, remove the duck from the sauce and place them back in the oven [on a tray] to crisp up the skin a little. Meanwhile strain the sauce into a pan and reduce gently. You can thicken this with cornflour, or glaze and emulsify with a little chilled butter if you like.

I like to serve this with moulded rings of twice-baked potato [coming soon!] and simply steamed pack-choi, the irony bitterness of the greens being a great foil for the very rich sauce. But this week it was asparagus as I’m eating it just about every day before the season ends.

Wallpaper duck plated up with twice baked potatoes and asparagus.

There are uses for any leftover sauce and options with the potato which we will return to at a later stage…

Pot Thai

Chicken in a pot with a selection of Thai spices

Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we’ve been enjoying of late, or maybe it’s got something to do with my having done two whole weeks of full-time work [I know, poor me!], but I’m yearning to get on a plane and head for distant shores. And with my own planned odyssey to explore the food of Indochina currently on indefinite hold it doesn’t help that you can’t turn on the TV at the moment without seeing a certain bum-chinned, potty-mouthed chef trampling all over South East Asia and its peoples and cuisines. Ah well, if departure lounges must remain a distant dream for now there’s nothing to stop me rustling up a mini-break from the comfort of my own kitchen.

Last July I wrote about the versatility of a simple chicken pot roast and this is yet another variation on the theme, though this time conceived with thoughts of a cold Tiger beer on a Thai beach at the forefront of my mind.

Follow the same basic method as before [you can substitute water for the wine if you think it feels more ‘authentic’, but I didn’t] but this time add the following:

  • A couple of bruised lemon grass stalks and the stems of a handful of basil [reserve the leaves for later] these to be inserted into the cavity, the rest strewn about the chicken in the liquor…
  • Two small shallots, finely chopped
  • A thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
  • Two or three red chillies, chopped
  • Strips of the peel of half a lime
  • Three or four crushed cloves of garlic
  • Half a teaspoon of ground turmeric

Season well and cook as before. Once the chicken is done allow it to rest and strain the juices into another pan. Reduce by a third. Add a tin of coconut milk, simmer for a few minutes more, and check the seasoning. Add some previously steamed and refreshed green veg to the sauce and warm through. I used new season asparagus and some pak choi, but green beans, peas, spinach, pea aubergines, etc. would all be fine.

Finish the sauce with a squeeze of lime, a splash of fish sauce, the reserved basil leaves, and a few further strips of freshly sliced chilli if you fancy. Serve chunks of the chicken in bowls on a bed of warm noodles and with plenty of the sauce.

Now then, where did I put my postcards…?

Homemade Worcestershire Sauce

A jar of Worcestershire Sauce steeping prior to being bottled.

I was quite surprised a few years ago to find a recipe in one of Gary Rhodes’ books for Worcestershire Sauce given that this is supposed to be one of world’s best kept secrets, the recipe only discussed by ‘those who know’ in the middle of a field. Anyway I made it as per Gary’s instructions for several years and it always went down very well with people who received it as a Christmas present – very good for cheese on toast apparently, as any Worcestershire Sauce worthy of the name should be. And then the there was the bombshell in 2009 of a Lee and Perrins employee apparently finding the original recipe in a skip! So much for the field, but frankly little we couldn’t have already deduced from the label, which brings me back to Mr Rhodes. Why, in his recipe, did he ignore so much of what the bottle already tells us about its contents? He includes no molasses or tamarind, and I was a tad sceptical about some of his other ingredients. Mushroom ketchup? It’s practically another version of what you’re making. I think he might be on to something with the mushroom flavour though so when it came to concocting my own I have added some dried porcini for their savoury depth. Yes, I’ve scoured the various printed and online versions I could find and have devised my own blend. It’s steeping now [this does take a little time to mature] so I can’t yet vouch for the final version, but the signs and smells so far are positive. I don’t think Lea and Perrins should shut up shop just yet, but if you fancy spicing up Christmas for your nearest and dearest you’ve just about got time.

Should make close to 1 litre

  • 900ml malt vinegar
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 50g salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 15g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 birds-eye chilli, deseeded
  • 2 tsps muscovado sugar
  • 3 tbsps soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods, bruised with the back of a knife
  • 1 quarter tsp cinnamon and a fragment of cinnamon bark
  • 1 third of a nutmeg [grated] and few blades of mace
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • A few drops of ‘colatura di alici’* – strictly optional, and only if you can find any!

Place the vinegar, shallots and garlic into a pan and slowly bring to a simmer. Dribble in the treacle and stir well to dissolve, then allow to tremble gently for twenty minutes or so. Add all the other ingredients and stir well then cook for a couple of minutes more. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly as you warm a large glass jar in a low oven. Pour the warm mixture into the warmed jar and seal. This now needs to sit for a week, ten days, or even a fortnight, and should be shaken each time you pass the jar. Mine sits on the washing machine so that the spin cycle can shake it for me when I’m out.

When ready strain through a fine sieve, heat until just below simmering for two minutes, and when still warm decant into heated sterilised bottles. Never pour hot liquids into cold glass bottles, or cold liquids into hot ones – they should both be quite warm. Then seal and keep somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight until needed. There will be some sediment and you’ll need to shake the bottle before each use. I’d also keep the bottle in the fridge once opened.

As I say this is a first outing for my new recipe and there are likely to be tweaks and twists with future batches. Do check back in the new year, and please feel free to leave your own suggestions as comments.

Now then, who’s for cheese on toast and a Bloody Mary?

* ‘Colatura di alici’ is an Italian condiment descended from the ancient Roman ‘garum’. It is made from fermented anchovies and contrary to the advice of the TV chef who I first saw use it is fiendishly difficult to find in the UK. If you have some by all means use it. If not don’t worry, there are enough anchovies included here to render it all but superfluous. Add an extra anchovy fillet if you feel the need.

Wood Work

OK, so you’ve consumed your beetroot gazpacho and it’s time for the barbecue – read on…

Unlit Barbecue

Bored of simply placing food directly onto your barbecue grill and worrying about whether the insides are cooked well after the outsides are already distinctly charred? Then you probably need to introduce a further level of potentially anxiety inducing difficulty, the ‘grilling plank’. I don’t barbecue often [see The Never Ending Fillet] which could explain why this particular cooking method has so far passed me by when it seems that some people, many of them Canadians, have been at it for years. Essentially it involves soaking a wooden plank in water for a few hours, placing said plank onto the barbecue grill, and the food onto the plank. The wood begins to char and smoke [hopefully without actually catching fire, hence the pre-soaking] with the intention of both cooking and lightly smoking the food. Various aromatic woods are used, the one I found in my local Waitrose was maple. The aroma during cooking reminded me a little disconcertingly at first of a sauna, but then when people routinely produce recipes for cooking fish in dishwashers or on car engines, a sauna actually starts to look like quite a logical choice. And the end result was in fact nicely cooked fish with a pleasingly subtle smokiness. As with all first attempts I’ll want to return to this and tinker with the details – barbecue lid on or off, how long to pre-warm the plank, exact cooking times, etc, etc, – but something about this has touched my inner lumberjack, and I’ll be back. TIM-BER!

For four

  • 4 individual sea trout fillets of even thickness
  • 2cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 tsps soft brown sugar
  • 6 tbsps Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin or rice vinegar
  • 100ml sake, or good fino sherry
  • 2 finely diced spring onions [optional]
  • ½ tsp wasabi paste [optional – leave this out if you want to concentrate on the smoke without too many distractions]
  • 1 grilling plank
  • 1 barbecue – the real thing I’m afraid, those disposable tray affairs won’t cut it here

Soak your plank in cold water for at least 4 hours. You’ll need something to weigh it down. I used a terracotta wine cooler which also needs a good soak – two birds, one stone!

Place the trout fillets into a shallow snugly fitting dish. Whisk together the other ingredients, pour over the fish and marinade for an hour and a half.

Marinating trout

Build your barbecue and set alight, then wait until the coals are glowing red. By the way, cheese crates make excellent kindling and if you’re in the vicinity yellowwedge cheese will happily give these to you gratis. If not try your local cheese monger who will almost certainly oblige.

Drain your plank and rub the cooking [smooth] side with a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil, then set it on the grill above the coals for 10 minutes. Now remove the fish from the marinade and carefully place on the plank. Exact cooking times will vary depending on your equipment, so you’ll need to judge by eye and touch – an opaque fillet which springs back from a light touch is done. If your barbecue has a lid then you can use this to increase the smokiness. White smoke means that all is well, black smoke means that your plank is on fire and you will need a water spray to calm it down.

Sea trout fillets cooked on a barbecue 'grilling plank'.

Serving suggestion

We ate this with a salad of pink fir apple potatoes, finely sliced gherkins and peas, dressed with a mustardy French mayonnaise. Cucumber pickle would also go down well.

The Never Ending Fillet!

Mmmm, beef fillet. Luxurious, indulgent, and not something you’d eat every day. Not, that is, unless you’ve been living here for the last few days. What began as a South African braai [or barbecue for the non-Afrikaans speaking] in honour of the world cup host nation has, mercifully given the price of fillet, metamorphosed into a medley of delicious dishes. But let’s start at the beginning…

‘Gemsbok fillet in red wine and soya sauce’ read the recipe, helpfully adding that in the absence of Gemsbok any South African antelope could be used. A trip to my local butchers however failed to turn up a single specie of antelope and the decision was soon taken to replace the prancing prince of the plains with a cow. ‘Enough for six’ I told Mr Armstrong and left with a hefty slab of the finest fillet [c. 1.5 kg] ready to submerge it in what I like to think of as a spa treatment for meat, a deep, dark marinade which the recipe said should be composed of the following:

  • A bottle of Merlot [though I had an open Pinot Noir and used that instead]
  • 125 ml soy sauce
  • 125 ml olive oil
  • A tablespoon of soft brown sugar
  • 5 or 6 crushed garlic cloves
  • A small thumb of grated ginger
  • A small teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds
  • 2 or 3 finely shredded chillies [I left the seeds in despite being told to do otherwise]
  • And without being asked to do so by the recipe I couldn’t resist throwing in a couple of torn and fragrant bay leaves

Despite the South African provenance of the recipe there’s a clearly oriental bent to these aromatics which I have previously combined with red wine, Chinese five spice and honey when cooking duck, but the beef [as I’m sure would have the Gemsbok] appeared very much at home with its new playmates and became a darker ruby red with every turn over the next 8 hours.

Now it would seem from the recipe book [Cape Wine Braai Masters – free with 6 bottles of South African Wine!] that your average South African barbecues roughly three meals per day, but I’m British and with English summers being what they are I probably cook over coals that many times per year, and as such I think I lack the natural confidence with charcoal which comes from the life lived largely outdoors. So the fillet had its prescribed 20 minutes per side on the barbecue, with regular basting, but there was an oven waiting at 200˚C and off it popped for a further 20 minutes in there to be on what we Brits would call ‘the safe side’. Whilst the meat finished and rested I reduced the remaining marinade to a thick sauce which needed only a sparing drizzle over the thickly sliced meat. The result was meltingly tender meat, still rare at the core and with an intensely flavoured outer crust, but without knowing the exact temperature of the charcoal etc I can only suggest using the ‘poke test’ one would apply to a fillet on the grill to check when the meat is cooked to your liking.

The same book contains a great recipe for a simple but splendid tomato salad with mixed varieties of tomatoes [as many as you can find], diced red onion, finely chopped red chillies and basil with a lemony vinaigrette which eats very nicely with the beef on a warm summer evening.

Well received as the fillet was by the braai guests I was left with about half of the meat and a good quantity of the marinade / sauce. Perhaps I should have scaled to quantities to take account of the Sosatie marinated pork chops and the Bobotie spiced chicken [ostrich, it seems, is no easier to come by than Gemsbok]. Ah well, there are worse things to worry about in life than what to do with a hulking great chunk of steak and some intensely fragrant cooking liquors. And despite the summer heat I was inexorably drawn, wherever else I looked, in one direction. The direction — of cottage pie!

EPISODE TWO – THE PIE.

I do have an old fashioned hand cranked mincing machine, inherited from my mother, but it’s suction foot doesn’t suck properly anymore and the laborious job of feeding flesh into its gaping jaws and winding [and winding, and more winding!] the handle whilst trying to keep it in one place is actually nowhere near as much fun as mum made it look. So mincing by hand with a chef’s hatchet seemed the best way forward, first with, then across the grain of the meat. I have seen Chinese chefs do this to raw pork with a cleaver in each hand, but again it’s probably one of those things where a lifetime of practice pays dividends so I took the slow and steady route.

An onion was chopped and sweated, in went some more garlic, then some quartered button mushrooms [for some reason known only to The Shop Keeper we have a fridge FULL of mushrooms] and some finely diced carrot. And was that half a fennel bulb lurking in the salad drawer? Why not.

Next a good squeeze of tomato puree, a dash of umami paste, and a glug of fruity rose [also, ahem, open], which all cooked out for a few minutes more. Then in with the hand minced beef, the remaining marinade / sauce, a good quality tin of chopped tomatoes, and, as it looked a little thick, another good glug of wine. Oh and a couple more bay leaves from the neighbours’ garden. Then it’s simmering time. Gentle simmering that is, we are after all cooking with fillet steak and not boiling brisket.

And having tipped the result into a pie dish more than big enough for two – there’s still enough left over for another day! [see Episode Three]

I always let a cottage or shepherd’s pie filling cool before attempting the topping. The filling become firm when cold and as such it’s far easier to get a nice even coating of mash. And I wanted this mashed potato to be bold enough to hold its own against the richness beneath so added a generous grated handful of full bodied, meatily mature Comte which had somehow managed to squeeze into the fridge amongst all the mushrooms. So, mash on, top swirled with the tines of a fork, brush with melted butter and into the oven until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. At which point allow to the pie to sit and [literally] chill for a few minutes before serving. The taste buds of a scalded tongue would struggle to savour the delicate complexities of your creation.

There is an ongoing debate between The Shop Keeper and I as to the perfect accompaniment for such a pie, that being garden peas or baked beans. On a cold November Monday with an M&S cottage pie I’m quite happy to take the path of least resistance and open a can of Heinz, but for a pie of this refinement nothing less than the king of the greens will suffice. In case you’re wondering, we ate this one with peas.

EPISODE THREE – THE SKY […’s the limit? OK this is a really crap heading but I’m about to write about tortillas and nothing appropriate rhymes with ‘Braai’ and ‘Pie’]

Don’t forget, this beef is amongst other things, a spicy little number – remember all those chillies way back in the original marinade? They’ve mellowed somewhat by now, but they’re still there. And so the last hurrah for this saucy little cow is to be in a meaty tortilla.

This won’t be the traditional chilli filling but I’m looking forward to the rich and slightly spicy mixture wrapped in a warm flour tortilla, and topped with sliced avocado, a tomato, lime and chilli salsa, and a dollop of soured cream. There’s only one thing missing – the cheese. Luckily we didn’t use all of that Comte, and I think it’s about time that this fillet and that particular fromage were reunited…