Tag Archives: Christmas

Janssen’s Temptation

5 Jan

You’ll have heard of this recipe before, you may even have eaten it, and made it.

For me, it’s one of those go-to recipes when I’ve bought cream for something and then either forgotten what it was I bought it for, or just have loads left over. Or changed my mind. After all, what would be nicer than fillet steak with creamy potatoes? And brussels sprouts? OK, you might not all agree with the addition of the brussels as a side dish, but I’ve learned to love the wee critters. My spiced pickled red cabbage on the side would have created perfection on a plate, but I forgot it when I was serving up. I forgot to turn the oven off too.  So, it could have been the second time in 24 hours the house nearly burned down.

Yes, it’s been an eventful time.

We were relaxing in front of the fire (with a cheese board and some vintage port) when we noticed a car drawing up outside (we live far from anywhere, but beside a road, so notice these things on the rare occasions they happen). Then there was a knock at the gable window, beside where I was sitting. I couldn’t see who it was in the dark blackness outside. The Captain went out to investigate and asked if I was cooking anything when he went through the kitchen… but no, I wasn’t. And then we discovered that the kind stranger had stopped to inform us our wheelie bin (right beside our boiler and the side of the house) was on fire. It was seriously on fire, with flames shooting out of it and 3/4 of the bin now melted away. It was cold and dark and windy, with a drizzly rain spattering down on us. The boys pulled out the hose (not melted by the heat of the fire) and we spent the next half hour making sure the bin had no chance of bursting into flame again.

We’ll never know for sure what caused the fire, but suspect it may have been our house guest who had lit a fire earlier in the evening and burned lots and lots and lots of paper. The next morning she asked if it had been because she’d put hot ash in the bin. As I say, we’ll never know for sure.

Anyway… the next evening I attempted (yet again) to use up some more of the ingredients I’d bought in for the Christmas season, and it was time to finish that enormous pot of cream. I much prefer savoury to sweet (despite the huge number of recipes for sweet homebaked goods on this site) so decided on Janssen’s Temptation, that delicious potato gratin dish, baked in the oven till it’s all oozingly unctuous.

Janssen’s Temptation

  • A large pot of double cream
  • About the same amount of milk
  • A few large potatoes
  • An onion (or several if you are feeding the five thousand)
  • Anchovy fillets (although I’m reliably informed that this is WRONG and that it should be sprats, it’s just that we are a bit rubbish at translating Swedish and have translated ‘ansjovis’ which means sprats into anchovies… well, you would wouldn’t you?)
  • Some veg stock (or a cube, crumbled)
  • Seasoning
  • Some butter

I know, I know, I’ve not been too precise on the quantities here, but since I only ever make it when I’m using up what’s left int he fridge, how would I really know?

Preheat oven to 220C/400F/GM6

  1. Slice your onion (I always slice it in half long ways, and then put it on it’s flat side and slice it into thin crescent slices)
  2. Pop a dod of butter into a large heavy based frying pan and gently fry the onion over a low heat, till they are sort of soft-ish
  3. Butter a gratin dish. You choose the size, depending on the number you intend to feed and how many potatoes/onions you have
  4. If you’ve got a mandolin, slice your potatoes nice a thin. If you haven’t then you’ll take a bit longer over this bit, doing it with a sharp knife. If you don’t have a sharp knife or a mandolin then don’t even think about trying this recipe.  Go and buy a decent knife and a knife sharpener and then come back and get started
  5. Chop up some anchovy fillets. A whole tin if you’ve got it, or if you’ve got them in a big jar in the fridge, then chop as many as you fancy – you’ll need to add a few to each layer (see below)
  6. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of your gratin dish
  7. Add a think layer of onions
  8. And some anchovies and freshly ground black pepper
  9. Repeat this layering another one or two times, ending with a layer of potatoes
  10. Mix your cream with milk, roughly half and half. Add some veg stock if you have it, otherwise crumble in a veg cube
  11. Pour most of this over your potato layers, so it’s roughly half way up the side…
  12. Pop it in the oven and leave it for a good 20-30 minutes. Pour yourself a cocktail. You probably deserve it.
  13. Take it out of the oven and wonder ta how tasty it smells and looks. Pour the rest of the cream mixture over it. And pour yourself another cocktail.
  14. Leave it in the oven for another 20-30 minutes, till it is soft all the way through when you poke it with a knife. You may need to turn the oven down a bit and leave it longer if you’re enjoying the cocktails too much and haven’t put your steak on yet. Or if you were sensible you would have made a stew the day before which just needs re-heating and no further cooking would be required.

And that’s it. Tastiness on a plate. You’d have photos if I hadn’t had cocktails.

I could give you a photo of the melted wheelie bin, but really, it would put you off all your meals in 2014.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

 

 

 

Christmas muffins (The Cranberry Years)

2 Dec

I love Christmas food.

Cranberry clementine muffins

Cranberry clementine muffins

Well, I love my sort of Christmas food – which is almost anything apart from traditional Christmas cake. I love warm and mellow Christmas spices; chestnuts thrown into all manner of leftover dishes just because you have them; turkey; glazed ham; mulled wine; spiced cider; and cranberries. I really love baking with fresh cranberries.

And I know it’s only just December, but I was in the wonderful Whole Foods Market in Giffnock again this weekend and they had ENORMOUS fresh juicy cranberries. I had to have them.

And I had to make muffins with them. I combined them with clementine zest and orange juice, for flavour. And a muffin batter which included extra bran and porridge oats to make them pretend they are somewhere further along that health spectrum than you might imagine. But then lots of melted butter to make sure they are still tastiness itself.

And now you can make them too. If you start now, they’ll be ready within an hour. Unless you have to go out and pick your own cranberries.

Cranberry & clementine muffins

Preheat oven to 375F / 200C / GM5-6. Prepare muffin tins, lining them with muffin cases. Makes about 12 regular muffins . 

  • 8oz plain flour
  • 1oz bran
  • 1oz porridge oats
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3oz dark brown or muscovado sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 6oz fresh cranberries (you could use blueberries, or other berries of your choice)
  • grated zest of 5 clementines
  • 7fl oz clementine or orange juice
  • 3oz melted butter (or 3fl oz veg oil)
  1. Mix together in a large bowl: flour, bran, porridge oats, baking powder and salt
  2. In a separate bowl beat together: sugar, egg, zest, juice and melted butter
  3. Pour liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just combined, adding the berries towards the end. The batter can have lumps but there should be no pockets of dry flour
  4. Spoon into muffin cases (about 3/4 full should work, and produce nice full muffins)
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden brown and the muffins spring back when you poke them gently

 

 

Christmas cheer (in November)

13 Nov

I’ve started.

I didn’t mean to.  I prefer to wait till 20 December for my Christmas preparations, as is traditional in my family.  But there are some things that need time to reach perfection.  And anyway, I enjoy pottering about in the kitchen.

So yesterday I bought some fresh cranberries and a bottle of vodka.  Last time I made cranberry vodka it was far too sweet, but was a perfect late night (after too much wine) shot.  So I’m trying it again.  And plum brandy (if only because I have brandy in the cupboard and our plum harvest in the freezer).

The cranberry vanilla vodka starts with layers of sugary syrup, and lighter alcohol

Cranberry Vanilla Vodka

250g cranberries

1/2 vanilla pod

160g caster sugar

1l vodka

You’ll need a kilner jar, larger than a 1l one.  I think mine is probably 1.5l, but not entirely sure.  Hey, it won’t really matter if your jar is too small, you just won’t be able to fit all the vodka in (so use slightly less fruit and sugar too).

  1. Here’s the slightly laborious bit, although I find it meditatively soothing.  Prick each of the cranberries with a fork, and pop them in the jar.
  2. After you’ve added a cranberry layer, spoon in some of the sugar, then layer with more pricked cranberries and more sugar.  Keep going till you’ve put in all the cranberries and sugar. And I know the pricking seems ridiculous, but really, if you don’t do it the flavour won’t leach out into the vodka so much, and you’ll end up with a disappointing drink, having saved yourself a mere 15 minutes sitting down listening to the radio.
  3. Now using a sharp knife split the vanilla pod lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds into the jar.  Throw the empty pods in too, they still have lots of seeds and flavour left in there.
  4. Pour the vodka in on top of the fruit layers, seal the lid and give it a shoogle.
  5. Leave somewhere out of the way, but easy to hand – so it’s not in your way, but you can give it a wee shoogle every day for the next 3 weeks.
  6. Taste it.  If you’d like it sweeter, then make up some basic sugar syrup, with caster sugar and water, and add it to the jar.  If you like it as is, then bottle it up and put a pretty label on it.
  7. Drink.

Plum brandy

Follow the basic method for Cranberry Vanilla Vodka.  I only had a 1l jar, so I layered plums and soft brown sugar till the jar was about half full.  Then I added a star anise and about 1″ cinnamon stick, followed by some brandy.  We’ll see how it turns out… I suspect I’ll wish I’d put more star anise in it.

 

Jars of alcoholic tastiness

 

Next weekend I will probably turn my hand to a Stollen.  I’ve never made one before, but much prefer stollen to heavy fruitcake.  Mind you, I do have a recipe for a Christmas Cake which lasts like a normal cake, but is made of nice light fruit, like apricots instead of all that horrid stuff you usually find in a fruitcake.   

Broccoli and stilton soup

1 Oct

So, when Tesco builds a new store, they do all manner of strange discounts.  We have a new Tesco in the valley and today there were bags and bags of broccoli for only 10p each, all marked ‘TEST’, but all looking like fresh and scrummy broccoli.

They also had enormous whole salmon reduced from £35 to £10. I think they were about 8lb weight. But since G’s sister had already bought a whole salmon earlier in the week and stuffed our freezer full of salmon steaks I resisted that particular temptation.

And grabbed the bags of broccoli.  And a wedge of stilton.  You see where I’m heading don’t you?

Broccoli and stilton soup

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 medium large potato, chopped into small chunks

about 1.5l veg stock

1 large head of broccoli, cut into small-ish chunks

about 100g stilton in chunks

  1. Sweat the onion in a heavy based saucepan with a wee bit of oil or butter.
  2. Add the potato and sweat for a few minutes.
  3. Add the hot stock (or boiling water from the kettle and a stock cube). Cook for about 10 minutes, till the potato is cooked.
  4. Add the broccoli and cook for a further 4 minutes or until the broccoli is cooked.
  5. Add the stilton and smoosh it all up with the electric zizzer.
Perfect for a quick light lunch.  And I’ve heard a rumour that it is good to freeze.
Oh hey… if you have a lovely soup recipe and want some recognition… go here: http://www.newcoventgardensoup.com/competition
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