Thursday, 15 March 2012

Visitors and Cooking

I have received my latest purchase from Ebay, a little set of antique pine drawers and it is now sitting on the side in my kitchen looking rather beautiful! I am soooo pleased with them.

Its a lovely day here on the hill the sort of day that makes you feel glad to be alive.

Our garden which is in desperate need of some TLC but with all we have to do on the house the garden will have to wait a little longer

The chickens this morning decided to sit on the bridge just outside my bedroom window and the cocks had a good old crow to wake us up (far too early)

This evening I have guests coming for dinner so have decided to do a very quick fish starter of smoked salmon, poached salmon and prawns in a marie rose sauce, I did this at Christmas and it was lovely!

For the main course we will have Coq Au Vin, which is a great dinner party meal as it can be made earlier in the day and improves during the day as the flavours develop.

Coq Au Vin

1oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
8 free range chicken thighs, I use thighs because I think they have a better flavour and are cheap
approx 4oz of smokey streaky bacon
approx 2oz diced pancetta (optional)
8oz button mushrooms
8 Shallots
2 tbsp flour
1/2 pint chicken stock, I use a Knorr gel stock cube when I don't have any homemade stock
1 pint of red wine
1 bouquet garni, mine is from Waitrose and is especially for poultry
1 or 2 large garlic cloves crushed
salt and pepper to season
chopped parsley to garnish
This serves 4 people

Melt butter and oil in a large pan, add the chicken skin side down to start and brown for about 10 - 15 minutes, remove and put on some paper towels to drain.

Thought I best put this picture in so nobody thought I was eating my own chickens!!

I use this type of shallot as it is a long shape and very sweet

Here is the bacon and pancetta, which I have diced, I am really very lucky as I was given a huge piece of home cured pancetta and it is so delicious!

Remove any excess fat so that you have approximately the same amount you started with and add the mushrooms, bacon and pancetta and shallots and cook over a high heat until golden brown. When done remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Put the wine into a saucepan and boil until it has reduced by half. I used a Merlot and a pint leaves you with about 1 glass left in the bottle which could be the cooks perk but as I am doing this in the morning its probably not a good idea.

Add the flour to the pan you cooked the chicken, bacon etc in and cook for about 3 minutes stirring all the time, gradually stir into this the stock and red wine which should have now reduced to 1/2 a pint (300ml), you may at this point think it has all gone horribly wrong but keep stirring or as I do use my balloon whisk and keep going until it becomes smooth.

Replace the chicken, bacon, pancetta, mushrooms and onions back to the pan and add the bouquet garni and garlic, season, being careful not to use too much salt as the bacon and pancetta are rather salty then cover and put in a pre-heated oven of 160c but mine is a fan oven so in a normal oven it will probably be 180c and cook for about an hour until the chicken is tender when you stick a fork in. You will not believe the smells that will be in your kitchen at this point it is definitely something to salivate at!

Garnish with some chopped parsley and serve. If you are making this for later, I usually cook for 15 minutes less and then give it 30 minutes when I re-heat it later in the day.

I will serve this with dauphinois potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli.

Dauphinois Potatoes

Buttered gratin dish
2lb potatoes
1/4 pint single cream
1/4 pint double cream
1 clove garlic finely chopped
salt and pepper
4oz gruyere cheese

Very thinly slice the potatoes, use a food processor of mandolin if you have one but it can be done by hand.
Put a layer of the potatoes slightly over lapping into the buttered gratin dish, season and sprinkle with some cheese and garlic, and pour a little of the cream over.
Continue to layer until all the potatoes, garlic, cream and cheese have been used.
Pop in a pre heated oven of 140c or 160c if not a fan oven for 1 1/2 hours it will be a creamy, cheese bowl full of heavenly fattening gorgeousness.

At this stage I was going to have put a picture up of the finished products, which were beautiful even though I do say so myself, unfortunately they were spooned into and plated up before I had a chance and as I don't really know one of the gentlemen who came very well I thought he might find it a little strange me taking photos of all the food! But saying that I did manage to sneak a photo of the dessert I made

Almond Tart, I gave the recipe for that in an earlier post, fresh fruits and a raspberry topped Panna Cotta, heaven in a little dish!

Vanilla Panna Cotta

3 Sheets of gelatine
1 Vanilla Pod split with seeds scraped out
250ml whole milk
250ml double cream
1oz caster sugar

Put the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water until they go soft
Heat the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla pod with seeds into a pan and heat to a simmer but do not boil., take off the heat.
Remove the vanilla pod, I always give it a rinse under the tap and then plonk into my caster sugar jar and it still imparts a lovely flavour into the sugar.
Now give the gelatine sheets a squeeze to remove excess water and drop into the pan, give it a stirring to make sure that it has dissolved and then although you don't have to I always sieve the mixture before pouring it into little ramekins. This mixture made 6 of the size that you can see or 4 bigger ones.
Pop into the fridge to set, which should take about an hour and then I made the raspberry topping, which was a small punnet of raspberries, with a few saved for decoration, 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of water, put all of this into a pan and simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the raspberries are soft, its about 3-5 minutes, when that is done I added a dash of Rumtopf liquior and half a sheet of gelatine just to give it a soft set and poured onto the little custardy delights.

If you don't want to put a topping on and wish to turn them out, it is easily done by giving the ramekin a quick dip into hot water and then upturning onto a plate, with a little shake it should, fingers crossed plop out as a little quivering mound of calories!

My guests all left feeling very full, well oiled from lashings of wine and port that we had with the cheese and biscuits and I hope very happy.

Claire xx

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