Saturday, October 25, 2008

Linkfest, and a list of culinary to dos....

A quick, somewhat grim video (culled from Ruhlman's blog), detailing the making of Testa, (also called Copa Di Testa, or Headcheese in America, or, in these parts , Brawn). Warning, the video contains a skinned pigs head being boiled and broken down for meat. The squeamish may not be pleased.....

Pigs heads are available for about a fiver, ears intact, from Buckleys on Moore Street, and I may plump for a more authentically Irish/British version from the BBC website. This one is firmly on the todo list, kind of inspired by Fergus Henderson, and Hugh FW and the whole nose to tail eating idea. Seems topical with the slew of credit crunch rationing type recipes popping up in various media. And a fine way to use of the entire animal as any conscientious meat eater should.

Currently banned from all civilised places for chopping up and cooking the above. Looks like a longer term project. I may have to wait until I have my own kitchen to rustle up this little sweetbread.....

Also on the to do list, perfect bangers.

Photographed, a sliced open Common Earthball mushroom, mildly poisonous. Slicing it open reveals the kind of foamy, granular interior which confirms the identification.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Experiments in the theatre of Ice Cream....

Physics, chemistry and cream.

To egg or not to egg. That is the question.

Heres the short version. For some of the science see below.....

Lessons learned....

Custard based creams are definitely smoother.

Strain the custard, gently.
Small containers are best.
Watch the custard like the family priest at a kindergarten.
Stir the custard, stir the mix.
Powerfreeze is the boss. Minus 25. Minus 18 is the bare minimum.
Pre chill the made mix in the refrigerator.

A quick flick through Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking) clears up some of the science.

The basic elements

Ice Crystals, Air, Concentrated Cream.

In this post

Ice crystals.....

Absolutely necessary for the structure of the ice cream, but also a common issue if they become too big. The addition of eggs slow down ice crystallisation. They make for a smoother ice cream, without the gritty texture you get from large, clumped together ice crystals (unless you scramble them). This is also the idea behind freezing the ice cream as quickly as you can. The faster you freeze it, the more even the ice crystal formation, and the smaller they are.

The aim is to make them so small they are imperceptible. It's also the reason behind not thawing and refreezing. Stirring helps with this, as does prechilling the mix in the fridge. Stirring breaks up ice crystals, spreads them out, encouraging the creation of many more but smaller crystals, and also helps introduce air into the mix. A final help is freezing the mix in several containers, giving a larger surface area exposed to freezing temperatures, and speeding up the freezing.

This is the recipe I used (available in full on their website), taken from the Murphy's Ice-Cream recipe book (the Book of Sweet things). The addition of egg yolks (taken fresh from the chickens out back) to the mix made it especially creamy and velvety - as did freezing it in smaller containers. The texture was far superior to the Tessa Kiros Caramel Ice Cream of last week.

One addition I would make to the recipe - when the custard thickens, chill it in an ice bath immediately, stirring all the time. It scrambles like a bastard.

Below....the best ice cream I have ever made.

Finally, Kitchen Chemistry with the bould Heston Blumenthal - the Ice Cream episode....

One for the fluffy bunnies.....

A heartwarming, deepdown, soul hugger of a little soup. One for cold days, one for rain streaked windows. One for wind, and wet. Cook for someone you love. It's that kind of soup.

Puy lentil soup, straight out of the North of Italy. This one is lifted and slightly adapted from Giorgio Locatelli (the pheasant ravioli video is fantastic), and his Made in Italy (free recipes at this link) book. A damned fine read, filled with dodgy measures, and irrepressible vitality. Food as Art.

This is a soup I make entirely by eye. Quantites will be artistic. Tasting is the thing.

For the lentils. Using dried puy lentils (I find a generous helping of circe 250g gives enough for three people), bring them, unsalted, to the boil, and simmer for 45 minutes.

For your soffrito, the base of the soup, you will need one large carrot, finely diced. One medium to large onion, similarly cut. two sticks of celery pulled as freshly from the earth as you can. Or in my cases, heroically hacked from the shelves of Dunnes. Sliced. Two or three bay leaves. Pick up a plant and go fresh with them. They underpin the entire taste of the thing. They give that generous and giving warmth of taste so lacking without the pancetta. Two sprigs of rosemary. Butter. Oil. Heat the oil, and gently sweat the vegetables, stirring in the herbs. You want to soften and sweeten them, with no salt or pepper. At this stage their beauty is nothing other than themselves. I take about 15-20 minutes for this stage. (The omnivorous amonsgt us could add some cubed pancetta here, for a heavenly fix).

After 45 minutes, your lentils should be nearly out of water. Add them (with the water if you wish) to the soffrito, and pop in some warm water, and two peeled, lightly crushed hefty, glorious and ample cloves of garlic. More if they are not ample.

Add salt (if you are not using pancetta), and black pepper, and a dollop of extra virgin olive oil. The salt is, I think, essential at this stage, allowing each flavour to interpenetrate. Simmer gently, adding water if necessary, for a good twenty minutes. More if you can, stirring, and tasting. At the end, season to taste, and blitz to your desired texture, adjusting thickness as you please - as you can probably see, I adore a generopusly gloopy bowl of earthy deliciousness. Sprinkle with chopped Rosemary for the scent. Drizzle with a little olive oil to lift. Eh voila.

A thing of beauty, and a joy for dinner.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Caramel Ice Cream

From China, and Persia, to our modern plates.

Once again, taken quite happily from Falling Cloudberries, Caramel Ice-Cream. It's a simple to make, low maintainance ice cream. Good without, and, more importantly, without an ice cream machine. Of the various recipes I've tried so far, it's turned out to be the easiest, and, so far, quite reliable. Howvere, a little more experimentation is required to make it just a little creamier.

I'm giving the Kiros recipe, but I would suggest a lower caramel to cream ratio - it's almost excessively rich. My o0wn take is going to be to make a double batch - one with the same amount of caramel, one which is a honey or vanilla ice cream, freeze them, and wait until they partially set and swirl them together.

Anyway....heres to the meat of the thing

Caramel Ice Cream


170g of Caster Sugar

500 ml of warm milk

200 ml of single cream

4 egg yolks.

On a medium heat, slowly melt the sugar to a deep gold. Don't stir, ans be careful not to burn it - caramel burns so so easily. Tilting the pan carefully should help to get an even melt.

Make sure your milk is warm, and add it to the caramel. Stand well back. It hisses and spits like a cat in a sack. And caramel burns hurt. Stir contionuously. Most of the caramel should dissolve. The rest will later.

Whisk the egg yolks until foamy. Whisking constantly, add a ladleful of the slightly cooled caramel mixture. You whick and add a little mixture to temper the eggs - to gradually raise their temperature and dilute them so they don't scramble. It's imperative to take care here, as the texture rests on what you do here. Keep adding it slowly, a little at a time.

Return the saucepan to the heat, and heat gently, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens slightly to a custard - Heston Blumenthal's suggestion is to dip in a spoon - I used a metal one to make it easy to see, and draw your finger down the back of the spoon, right in the middle. If the centre of the spoon satys clear of liquid - it doesn't dribble back in - it's thick enough.

Put it in the absolute coldest part of your freezer (I did this, and surrounded it with frozen peas) and whisk it vigorously, every 40 minutes or so, to avoid ice cruystals forming and ruining the texture.

Serve as you like.