Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

It is Asparagus season.

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With some of the best asparagus in the country grown up the road from his home stable by Sea Breeze in Wrentham on the Suffolk coast, DonQui decides it is time to have some.

His usual way of having asparagus is grilled with shavings of parmesan cheese. This time DonQui decides to try his hand at hollandaise sauce — something he has never cooked before.

Egg based sauces have tended to frighten DonQui a little. The idea of slowly stirring eggs at just the right temperature so that they do not curdle or scramble has always seemed just a little to tricky. Today he decides to put his fears to one side and give it a go — and very glad he is too. It is not as difficult as he feared and result is absolutely delicious.

Here is his recipe. It is heart-stoppingly calorific so if you worry about such things you should look away now and make yourself a healthy plain salad. DonQui can almost feel his arteries hardening just by looking at the lovely buttery sauce.

Ingredients

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2 egg yolks. Separate the yolk from the white by cracking the egg in half and transferring the yolk back and forth between the shell halves, allowing the white to drip down into a bowl if you wish to use it later for a meringue or something else which needs egg whites only.

125g unsalted butter

a dash of white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

a splash cold water

a pinch or two of salt to taste

a pinch or two of cayenne pepper to taste

a squeeze of lemon juice (less than 1/2 a lemon) to taste

Method

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Gently melt the butter in a saucepan, skim any solids from the top and put to one side, keeping it warm enough that it does not begin to solidify.

Beat the egg yolks, adding the vinegar, salt, cayenne pepper and water in a heat proof bowl or jug that will fit into a saucepan. Better not to add too much salt at first as more can be added at the end but too much cannot be taken out.

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Place the bowl in a saucepan of water that has been brought to the boil and kept to a very low simmer. Whisk continually for 4-6 minutes until the egg mixture begins to thicken.

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Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the melted butter, bit by bit until it’s all nicely mixed in to become a lovely creamy sauce. Season with a few squeezes of lemon juice. The lemon really transforms the sauce but DonQi doesn’t want it to overwhelm so he tastes it as he adds the lemon juice drop by drop. He tastes for salt and pepper at the same time and adds more if necessary.

DonQui is delighted with the result. At first he wasn’t sure if he had cooked the egg mixture long enough as it seemed a little runny when he took it off the heat. As it cooled down it began to thicken and in the end it turned out to be absolutely perfect. He has read that if the egg mix starts to thicken too much then a dash of cold water can save it. He did not have to resort to this.

Many recipes call for the addition of a bit of mustard. DonQui doesn’t really like mustard and he finds that a bit of cayenne pepper is a good substitute, leaving just a little tingle of heat on his tongue.

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Poured over grilled asparagus it made for a lovely dish with the addition of a sprinkling of sea salt a couple of grinds of black pepper and chopped hard boiled egg.

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Grilled asparagus tastes so much better than steamed in DonQui’s opinion. It is dead simple to do. Simply lay them in a baking dish, sprinkle with olive or rapeseed oil and place under the grill for 3 minutes on each side. Then sprinkle with sea salt flakes and a bit of ground black pepper.

Roast Pheasant

One of the few good things about the colder months in England is that it is game season. There are few things DonQui likes more to eat than game.

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A trip into Southwold to the excellent Mills Brothers’ (and sisters) butchery reveals that they have some rather lovely looking locally shot hen pheasants all trussed up and ready for the over. Pausing only to decry the ridiculous new business tax hikes that threaten high street shops within giving the likes of Amazon a discount, DonQui hands over his cash and takes a pheasant home with him.

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Previously DonQui has cooked his pheasants in a clay pot (Römertopf). This is because without any fat, pheasant can dry out and toughen up when roasted conventionally. Since this particular bird has been barded with bacon by the nice Mills boys, DonQui decides to try simply roasting it openly in the oven.

This is how he does it:

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Taking the pheasant out of the fridge an hour before to bring it up to room temperature, he browns it on all sides in a pan in which he has melted a little butter together with rapeseed oil.

Then he pops it in the oven which has been pre-heated to 180º C and lets it roast for 30 minutes, checking in at the half way point. Meanwhile he prepares the sauce which is a variation of his rich meat sauce with the addition of a few crushed juniper berries.

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Then he takes the cooked bird out of the oven and lets it rest for at least 10 minutes. Pouring off the excess oil from the roasting pan he deglazes it with red wine, scraping up the brown bits on top of the stove on a low heat and then adds this to the sauce pot.

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DonQui serves it with wild rice cooked in chicken stock along with green beens, peas and a little redcurrant jelly on the side. A French Burgundy or other pinot noir wine is the perfect accompaniment.

Bone with a hole

Continuing his enthusiasm for great veal dishes DonQui offers his take on the classic north Italian osso bucco. Originating from Milan, osso bucco translates roughly as ‘bone with a hole’ which is probably why it is never translated on menus.

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Osso bucco is made from thick slices taken from across a calf shank with the bone in the centre filled with delicious marrow. This dish is all about the sauce and the marrow. It is frequently served in restaurants in a tomato based sauce and the first time DonQui tried osso bucco it was served this way. The classic version, however, is cooked in a white wine reduction without tomatoes and DonQui resolves to try such a version.

For once DonQui takes notice of the quantity he uses in his recipe, although his measurements are typically quite approximate. He is making this just for himself so the measurements are for one person. This should make the mathematics of scaling it up for several people relatively easy — even for someone as numerically challenged as DonQui.

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Ingredients 

1 slice of veal shin. If you ask a good butcher for osso bucco he should know what you mean.

a tablespoon of flour seasoned with salt and ground white pepper for dusting the meat

1/2 an onion, finely chopped

1/2 a celery stick, finely chopped

2 small carrots, finely chopped

a handful of mushroom stalks, skins or bits finely chopped (optional)

a few chunks of pancetta or speck (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil and a knob of unsalted butter for frying

zest of one lemon

4 sage leaves

150ml dry white wine

150ml chicken stock

2 teaspoons of cornflour mixed with a little water for thickening the sauce (optional)

salt to taste.

Method

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Pat dry the meat and dredge it with the seasoned flour

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Brown the pancetta or speck in a little of the oil then take out and set aside. This will add a bit of a smokey taste to the sauce which is not absolutely necessary and not part of a classic recipe but DonQui likes it.

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Add more oil and brown the meat on both sides over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pan or casserole. Then take it out and set to one side.

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Add the butter along with the chopped onion, celery, mushrooms and one of the chopped carrots, reserving the second carrot for later. Cook together over a medium heat until the vegetables soften, reduce and begin to colour. Then add a sprinkle of salt, the sage and the lemon zest.

The mushroom bits are not essential but as DonQui has some leftovers in the fridge he decides to use them to give added depth to the sauce.

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Turn up the heat, add the white wine and let it reduce by about half.

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Place the meat on top of the vegetables, add the stock, bring it to the boil. Then cover and let it simmer very gently over a low heat for one and a half to two hours. Check progress and gently turn the meat every 30 minutes or so until the meat is very tender.

Up to this point you can do everything in advance, leaving it off the heat to finish the final steps later.

Ten to 15 minutes  before serving, gently take the meat out of the sauce and place to one side. Then strain the sauce and discard the vegetables. This is not an essential step and a classic recipe will not call for it. DonQui, however, is not keen on vegetables which have been cooked for a couple of hours. They have done their job by imparting their flavour to the sauce.

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Put the meat and the strained sauce back into the pan along with the second chopped carrot.  Bring it all back up to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the new carrot bits are cooked but still retain a little crunch (this is how DonQui likes them!).

Taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt or pepper if you think the sauce needs it. You might also wish to considering it reduce a little more uncovered. Then, if you prefer a slightly thickened sauce, add the cornflour/water mixture and bring back up to just boiling so that it thickens.

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Traditionally Italians tend to eat a meat course on its own without any accompaniment but DonQui likes to serve it with pasta or, perhaps, a saffron risotto.  He spoons the carrots with some of the sauce on top of the meat with a sprinkling of gremolata on top and the remaining sauce on the side.

IMG_9775.jpgGremolata is simply a mix of chopped parsley, finely chopped garlic and lemon zest with a bit of salt.

DonQui thinks this version of osso bucco vastly superior to one cooked in a tomato base. Done this way the delicious flavour of the slow cooked veal shin comes through. Adding tomatoes tends to overpower it in his opinion.

Veal Sauté

For reasons DonQui’s cannot quite comprehend, most Brits don’t eat veal. Many seem to have animal welfare issues associated with it.  Despite campaigns by various celebratory chefs, British ‘Rose Veal’ has not really caught on even though the calves are raised normally — giving a pinkish tinge to the meat and hence the name.

Adding to the absurdity, Calves’ liver seems to sell well enough — probably because it is not marketed as ‘veal’. Many people who might be squeamish about eating baby cows seem happy enough to eat even younger lambs while avoiding older mutton.

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Coupled with an export ban, the result of misguided animal welfare concerns is that each year in the UK hundreds of thousands of male dairy calves are simply killed at birth and incinerated as there is no British market and they cannot be exported. DonQui thinks that this is a shameful waste. Veal is better for us than beef and it lends itself to a delicious range of cooking methods. It is actually one of his favourite meats.

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The following recipe is one of his favourites, matching tender veal with mushrooms, wine and cream — a classic combination. He does not always approach it in quite the same way but if you follow this basic recipe you can play around with it as you wish.

Ingredients

Stewing veal cut into chunks. DonQui got his in France where it iwas labelled as ‘Sauté de Veau’. As this recipe involves slow cooking you do not need the very best nor the leanest cuts.

Mushrooms, halved or roughly sliced.

Dry or medium-dry white wine

Veal or chicken stock

Thick cream or crème fraîche

Chopped parsley

Salt and ground white pepper to taste.

Butter and oil for frying

A little corn flour mixed with water (optional in case you want a thicker sacue)

Method

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Fry the mushrooms in butter and oil until they begin to colour and reduce. Take out of the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

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Brown off the veal chunks in the same pan, adding a little more butter and oil if necessary.

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Add a good glass of white wine (DonQui apologises for never measuring). Deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits and then letting it reduce a little.

Add the stock (about the same amount as the wine), salt and pepper. Bring back up to the boil and then let it all simmer very gently, covered, for at least 1 1/2 hours or even longer. The idea is to cook it long and slow so that the meat starts to almost fall apart and all the flavour is imparted into the sauce. You could transfer it into a slow cooker if you wish. Be careful not to over-salt at this stage. A pinch will do. You can always add more later but much harder to take it out. Once the meat is beautifully tender you can leave it to finish off later.

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Ten minutes before serving add the mushrooms you set aside earlier and let it all cook together for 5-10 minutes. Taste the sauce and maybe let it reduce a little to add greater depth of flavour. If you wish a thicker sauce then add the cornflour-water mixture and bring up to a gentle boil so that it thickens.

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Then stir in a good dollop of cream and mix it in well on a low heat so it comes almost back up to the boil but not quite. If you cook it too vigorously at this stage the cream may separate.

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Taste for seasoning then sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

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DonQui likes this dish with noodles or rice. In this case he had it with egg tagliatelle with peas. The bright green peas add an appetising splash of colour. Carrots also go very well with the wine-cream sauce.

Chocolate Indulgence

Earlier last year DonQui visited Bakewell. While there Duchess treated him to a day long Chocolate making course at Harrington’s School of Food and Drink.

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Apart from making some rather delicious treats, DonQui learned quite a lot about chocolate and how to use it.

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Generally speaking DonQui tends to concentrate on savoury courses, often going without dessert, having cheese instead or simply making a fresh fruit salad. Now, despite a slightly expanded Christmas waistline, he decides to put his chocolate skills to the test and try his hand at making a chocolate mousse.

With apologies for DonQui’s usual lack of precision measurements, his recipe is as follows:

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Ingredients
good quality dark chocolate broken up into bits (about 2/3 of a bar)
a knob of unsalted butter
3 egg whites
2 egg yolks
a splash of whipping cream (or liquid double cream)
a scoop of caster or icing sugar

Method

bain marie.jpgGently melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie (in a bowl over warm water)

Whip up the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then gradually add in the sugar, continuing to beat it all together.

Beat the egg yolks and set aside

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Warm up the cream until just short of boiling

Take the melted chocolate and butter mixture off the head and gradually add the warm cream, stirring it gently until well mixed. Then add the beaten egg yolk and do the same.

Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the stiff sugared egg whites. Mix it all together but not too vigorously as that will collapse the egg whites.

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Spoon into serving dishes, sprinkle with a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder on top and put in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

 

 

 

The Food of Kings

Beasts of field, stream and forest are going into hiding. It is game season and DonQui is in a particular carnivorous mood.

With a herd of visitors on their way, DonQui decides that a haunch of venison is in order. There are few meats he enjoys more than this food of Kings — except perhaps for wild boar. Good wild boar is almost impossible to find in England. What is sold as such is cross-bread with domestic pigs, or farmed, or both. So venison it is.

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The friendly butchers at Mills and Sons (and daughters) in Southwold, have prepared a particularly excellent 1.7kg joint for him. It is from a wild Red Deer hind which had been happily running around the local fields not very long ago. It has been hung, tied and larded with fat to gently baste the meat as it cooks. Proper wild game has virtually no fat, this is one reason why it is such a health source of protein. A bit of larding (added fat) on the outside really helps the cooking process and stops the outside from drying out. Some vegetables from the local farm shop will be added to the feast.

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Aiding him in his quest to produce the perfect roast venison is Nichola Fletcher’s most helpful Ultimate Venison Cookery book. She advises roasting times based on the width of the joint rather than overall weight. This makes sense to DonQui as, after all, a long thin piece of meat might weigh more than a short fat one but is likely to cook more quickly.

The trick is to roast quickly at high temperature followed by a very long resting time. When resting the joint will continue to cook slowly — the result being something that is evenly pink and tender. As it has no fat, roast venison will dry out, becoming dry, tough and tasteless if it is cooked more than ‘medium rare.’

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DonQui rubs the outside with a mix of salt and pepper then browns the haunch on all sides in oil and butter at high heat. This gives the outside nice colour and flavour. If you do not do this beforehand the outside can tend to look a little greyish.

Then he pops it in a pre-heated oven at 200º C for 40 minutes. This is based on Nichola Fletcher’s advice of 3 minutes per centimetre of width. DonQui’s haunch is 14cm thick at the widest point so 40 mins seems about right. Then he takes it out of the oven, covers it loosely in tinfoil, and leaves the meat to rest for another 40 minutes while he gets on with the roast potatoes and finishing off the gravy.

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The lovely juices which collect in the pan during the resting process are added to the gravy. This DonQui makes from a variation of his usual rich meat sauce with the addition of 12 crushed juniper berries, mushroom stalks, thyme, rosemary, garlic, tomato paste and red current jelly. This time he does not make a roux, as through reduction it seems thick enough. This is rather fortuitous as, unbeknownst to him at the time, one of his guests likes to avoid gluten.

roastOvercooking roast venison will toughen it and leave you with nothing better than old shoe leather. The meat should be a lovely even pink throughout — DonQui is delighted to see that this is indeed the case.

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As he carves, he can tell that it is also beautifully tender. He has heard that some people do not like rare meat. If that is the case then they should not try roasting a haunch. Far better in that case to slow cook diced venison in a wine-based stew until the meat falls apart.

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DonQui serves his venison carved on a platter with some of the gravy poured on top with the addition of fried mushrooms along with a scattering of chopped parsley and thyme.

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder

DonQui has been looking forward to trying out the lamb shoulder he had marinated overnight (see previous post).

img_9231As soon as he gets up, even before his morning cup of tea, DonQui chops up some vegetables (shallots, carrots and celery, along with a couple of garlic cloves and a sprig of rosemary) and pops them into a clay oven (Römertopf) which had been soaking in water overnight.

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The lamb goes on top along with the residual marinade (see previous post), a splash of white wine and a splash of lamb stock.

img_9233The lid goes on and the clay pot goes into a cold oven (otherwise it could crack) which DonQui turns up to 120º C. It resides undisturbed in the oven for the next 5 hours.

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DonQui seeks a peak at around the 3 hour point. All looks great and the kitchen is filled with the most wonderful smells.

img_9236Thirty minutes before serving, DonQui sets the meat off to one side to keep warm while he cooks up some red Camargue rice and prepares the vegetables.

img_9238To make the gravy he strains the lovely juices from the bottom of the clay pot into a base of lamb stock thickened with a roux of flour and butter. He discards the vegetables as they have done their job infusing the sauce. He separately prepares some far less cooked carrots, broccoli, mange-tout, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes  for eating.

DonQui apologises that he forgot to take a photo of the finished dish. The lamb was so tender that he just pulled it apart, set it on a bed of rice, and arranged vegetables around it. He poured some of the sauce overtop, with extra on the side along with some recurrent jelly.

He will most definitely try this again.