Festive Cumberland Sauce

Cumberland Sauce is a traditional English accompaniment for a Christmas goose or ham. It also goes well with game. These days it has largely been supplanted by cranberry sauce which, like turkey, is an American import.

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DonQui’s Cranberry Sauce

DonQui likes cranberry sauce with turkey. A couple of years back he described his recipe for a simple homemade cranberry sauce.

This year DonQui will be having ham (gammon joint) on Christmas eve and he wants to try his hand at making Cumberland sauce to go with it.

This is his recipe:

Ingredients:

½ lemon, zest and juice
½ orange, zest and juice
4 tablespoons, redcurrant jelly
a good splash of port wine
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cornflour

Note: Traditionally Cumberland sauce is made with mustard. DonQui has a mild allergy to mustard so he leaves it out, using instead the cornflour to bind and thicken the sauce. If you like mustard then leave out the cornflour and use a good teaspoon of mustard instead.

Method

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Warm up the orange and lemon zest in the port, letting it reduce slightly

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Add the redcurrant jelly and whisk it in over a low heat until the jelly had completely melted and it is blended with the port.

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Put the ginger and cornflour (or mustard) in a small glass or bowl. Gradually add the orange and lemon juice. blend it together until well mixed.

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Add the juice mixture to the pot and bring it slowly to the boil, whisking it as you do so that it is nicely blended.

Remove from the heat and pour into a serving jug.

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There you have it.

Essentially Cumberland sauce is jazzed up redcurrant jelly. The ginger and citrus zest/juice gives it a real Christmassy flavour. DonQui tries it out with venison and it goes perfectly. He is looking forward to trying it again with his Christmas eve ham.

Homemade Pizza Sauce

DonQui is pleased that he has just about mastered the art of making a good pizza base but what about the toppings? DonQui’s current favourites are tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil, olives, capers and anchovies.

While he will vary these from time to time, the key is the tomato sauce.

 

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DonQui Oaty admires his handiwork

This is how he makes it:

Ingredients for 2 individual pizzas

1 400 g tin of San Marzano tomatoes

a pinch of salt

1 crushed garlic clove (optional)

a bunch of herbs — basil or oregano (optional)

San Marzano tomatoes are a unique southern Italian variety grown on the slopes of Mt Vesuvius near Naples. They are meatier than most other varieties with less seeds and less acidity. They, therefore, make perfect pasta and pizza sauces. Even though tinned, the taste is so sweet and fresh that DonQui prefers not to pre-cook it before putting it on his pizza.

DonQui orders his from Amazon and although more expensive than normal plum tomatoes they are not a hugely extravagant purchase.

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DOP San  Marzano tomatoes

The variety is protected in the EU by the denominazione di origine controllata (DOC). This protection does not extend to some non-EU countries.  In the USA many of the canned tomatoes sold as ‘San Marzano’ (often at very high prices) are nothing like the real thing.

Method

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Gently fry the crushed garlic

If using garlic (he does not always add it), DonQui likes to gently fry it in olive oil until it becomes fragrant but before it colours. This takes down the pungent rawness that can be a bit overpowering in a sauce.

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Drained tomatoes, salt, herbs and garlic in the blender

Drain the tomatoes and put them in a food processor/blender along with the salt and any herbs. If using basil you can use stalks as well as leaves. Add the garlic along with the oil it was cooked in.

 

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The blended mixture

Whizz it all up until it is blended. It does not have to be completely smooth.

If you do not have, or do not want to use, a food processor you can crush the ingredients together with a mortar and pestle.

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Drain the mixture to make it thicker

Tip the mixture into a strainer to drain a little more.   If the sauce is too watery then it may make a thin dough crust a bit soggy.  You could thicken it up with a bit of concentrated tomato purée (tomato paste) but this will alter the taste as the highly processed concentrate can take away from the fresh taste of the San Marzano tomatoes.

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Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza base with the back of a wooden spoon.

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Add your favourite toppings and put in the pre-heated oven at maximum temperature (250º+), ideally on a pizza stone (which radiates the heat). Then bake for  6 minutes or until the cheese is nicely melted and bubbling but before it burns.

Then enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Mallard

Duck is one of DonQui’s favourite meats. He is also very fond of game.

Imagine his joy, therefore, at seeing a wild mallard duck at his local butchers. It was too much to resist so he picked it up, took it home and then did a bit of research on how to best cook the bird — this being his first attempt.

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A wild mallard is much smaller than a farmed duck — just about perfect for two people. It also has very little fat. Unlike a domestic duck, there is no need to render the fat and the whole bird can be roasted rather than separating the legs and breasts. Because the bird is so small the best way to prepare it is by browning it all over in a hot pan and then finishing it off in the oven.

This is DonQui’s recipe.

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Ingredients for the roast mallard for two people
1 wild mallard
1 onion quartered
2 carrots roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and halved
1 lemon cut in half
A good bunch of fresh thyme
Salt
Oil and butter for cooking

Accompaniments (all optional)
1 apple cored and left whole with the skin on
Butter, raisins and a splash of rum to fill the inside of the apple
A handful of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked for at least 30 minutes
A good splash of red wine to deglaze the pan
Wild rice
Seasonal vegetables
Cranberry sauce

Method
Take the duck out of the fridge at least one hour before cooking so that it comes to room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 200º C. Meanwhile rub sea salt all over the duck, including the cavity. Salt on the skin will help to crisp it as well as adding flavour.

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Place the quartered onion, chopped carrot and garlic in a roasting pan, douse with a little oil and place in the heated oven to roast for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are nice and dark but not burned.

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As the roasting time for the duck is only 12-15 minutes, DonQui does this in advance to help create a deep rich sauce. Otherwise the vegetables will not imbue the dark roasted flavours to the sauce. Take the vegetables out of the oven once they are nicely roasted and set aside.

Put the soaked wild rice on to boil and then simmer about 45 minutes before serving. DonQui’s method for cooking wild rice is fully explained here. Once cooked the drained rice can happily sit in a lidded pot, off the heat, and will remain warm for at least 15 minutes if you do not get your timings right.

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Once the vegetables are out of the oven, heat a mix of butter and oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Butter will give flavour and the oil will prevent it from burning. Brown the duck on all sides using tongs or a large spoon and fork to turn it. This will take about 10 minutes.

Take the bird out of the pan. Place it on a rack above the vegetables in the roasting pan. Then stuff the cavity of the duck with the halved lemons and sprigs of thyme. This will add flavour to the bird and the lemon will steam it from the inside while it roasts. Add the cored apple stuffed with butter, raisins and rum to the rack.

Put the roasting pan with the duck and apple above the vegetables into the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes. After 15 minutes the meat will still have some pink to it but more than that will cause it to dry out and toughen up. Twelve minutes will be just enough to cook through leaving the meat a little rarer.

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Place the duck on a carving board, cover with tinfoil and a couple of tea-towels (dishcloths) and let it rest for 10-20 minutes. In this time the duck will continue to slowly cook from the inside out. This will even the cooking process which up to now has been from the outside in. If you do not rest for at leat 10 minutes the meat will not be properly cooked.strain.jpg

Cook the accompanying vegetables and make the sauce while the duck is resting.
To make the sauce, deglaze the roasting pan with a good splash of red wine over the roasted vegetables, stirring it all up over a low heat and scraping up the brown bits. Then strain the liquid into a pre-prepared gravy base. As the wild duck has very little fat there is no need to spoon anything off.

DonQui’s gravy base is a variation of his rich sauce. A simple alternative could be chicken stock thickened with a roux of butter and flour.mushrooms.jpg

On this occasion DonQui decides to add some dried porcini mushrooms. As the duck is roasting he pan fries the soaked mushrooms in a butter-oil mix, using the same pan he browned the duck in without cleaning it. Then he adds them to the sauce along with the water they had been soaking in. This gives the gravy a deep earthy taste which perfectly matches the wild duck.

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DonQui serves the duck with the wild rice, fresh kale from his allotment and french beans. Although not seasonal, he had picked the beans in season and froze them a few months ago. They were an excellent additional accompaniment.

As for the mallard — it was utterly delicious. DonQui will definitely try it again. Next time he will not bother with the baked apple. It is a traditional addition to a game bird, and went well with it, but DonQui thought the cranberry sauce was better and there was no need of two different sweet accompaniments.

DonQui advises looking out for pellets when eating a wild bird.  He found three shotgun pellets in this mallard. He takes this as a good sign that the mallard will have been living freely as a wild bird should before succumbing to the hunter rather than the abattoir.

 

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.

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.

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.

Chicken, mushroom and white wine pasta

DonQui recently tried out this recipe from  Passion Cook

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And very good it was indeed.

He made a small variation on the original recipe by reducing the wine and stock together for about 15 minutes and only then adding the cream right at the end.

pasta 2.jpgWhenever using cream in a sauce, especially with wine, DonQui always adds it at the end as this prevents it from separating or curdling.

A sprinkling of fresh parsley added a bit of colour.