Sausages!

I’ve just received my ‘Designasausage’ kit. It was the prize for December’s ‘Cultivate, Cook and Click’ by ‘We Grow our own’. Sadly, I won by default as I was the only entrant. Still, that’s marginally better than hubby getting second prize in Brixham Horticultural Society’s Autumn Show for his carrots, even though his was the only entry.

I’m excited about using the kit! The filling process looks like a two-person job. I’ve got the Lincolnshire flavouring mix. I might add some finely minced brandy-soaked dried apricots to the mix, just to make it my own.

I’ll put a picture on here when I’ve sausaged.

In the meantime, here’s the daughter’s dog with a cake on her head…

Dog with cake on her head

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Pizza Brixhamara

Pizza with Brixham fishing boat

The best of life in Brixham!

This is my kind of meal! Everything fresh, grown, recycled, found or gifted!

At this time of year, sprats are fished in the area. The seagulls know what time the boat is coming back in (how do they know?) and go out to meet it, so I was ready with my camera when I saw them flocking out to sea. Sure enough, within a few minutes, the sprat boat hove into view, complete with every seagull in Brixham in tow.

Actually, if the sea were warmer, I would be following the boat too, like a large seal!

We’ve been lucky and have occasionally been given a mixed bag of sprats, anchovies and herrings. And when I say ‘bag’, I mean shopping bag held under the boat hopper and filled with about 20 pounds of quivering silver beauties!

This time the herring were full of roe and I was able to have a delicious fried roes on toast for lunch, as well as a freezer full of fish.

Anyway, back to ‘Pizza Brixhamara’, which is more of an idea than a recipe.

My greenhouse tomatoes are still ripening – amazing when it’s nearly December! I had about a kilo, which I chopped and sweated with a couple of cloves of garlic and olive oil until they were well broken down (about 20 minutes). I pushed this mixture through a sieve. That’s essential at this time of year because the tomato skins are very tough, and if not removed they roll up and stab your throat like pine needles. Not nice.

I returned the ‘passata’ to the pan, added a splash of Balsamic and a teaspoon of brown sugar, and simmered until reduced down to a thick sauce.

I used leftover mashed potato to make two bases. I added 1 egg, then self-raising flour until I achieved a pastry-like consistency. This was the pushed and patted into pizza bases and cooked in a hot oven for 10 minutes. I then spread the tomato paste on the bases. I had way too much, so I put half of it on, then gave it a blast in the oven for 5 minutes, took it out, added the rest of the sauce and blasted it again for a further five minutes. These little miracles are VERY tomatoey!

Pizza base, ready to freeze

Pizza base, topped with tomato that has been reduced and double baked to make it even MORE tomatoey!

At this point I cooled one of the bases down and froze it for future use. To the other I added sliced mozzarella, fileted fresh anchovies and capers*, then drizzled it with some anchovy paste which I’d loosened with some olive oil. Whack it in the oven for a further 15 minutes, and serve. It’s a perfect mix of crisp, sweet, salty, and creamy, with a taste of the ocean. I always think I’m only going to eat half of it, but I usually go back for seconds and end up eating it all.

* Actually, my capers were pickled nasturtium seeds that I’d rescued from my hanging baskets. They’re not entirely successful this year, having a great flavour but being a bit crunchy!

So, a real taste of Brixham, which only cost me the price of the mozzarella (Sainsbury’s Basics, 41p). That titillates my tightwad taste buds!

Ensai-MAD!-a 2

Doh! The ‘tube’ is too thick again – not enough revolutions! There’ll be too much bread to jam, per portion.

Ensaimada - first attempt, 2011

Smells good - nice and puffy.

Good things:
1. It puffed up well
2. Jam didn’t leak out
3. Not too brown (always a problem – the dough is rich with egg and sugar, and darkens within minutes). I wonder if it’s cooked through? Won’t know till we cut into it tonight at our Halloween canasta party.

My recipe for ensaimada.
I want to make another one on Thursday for my art group. This time I will roll my dough out to a much longer, narrower shape, so that I get a thinner tube of jammy goodness, and more revolutions. (Come to think of it, WHY DO I keep rolling it out into a rectangle? I must be crazy…)

Ensai-MAD!-a

A title that won’t mean anything to many! Ensimaida. I’ve been struggling to make an ‘Ensimaida’ for a long time.

It’s a delicious Spanish pastry that, I know, from Mallorca. A coil of rich, buttery yeast pastry filled with a tasty, fibrous golden goo.

After many years of the enduring mystery, daughter found out that the filling is pumpkin jam, called ‘Cabello de angel’ (angel hair). She made me some delicious jam with her pumpkins, and I started the quest for the perfect ensaimada.

So far it’s gone wrong thus:

First attempt. Too much bread to jam ratio. (Have downscaled the bread to 250g of flour from 500g.)

Second attempt. Jam boiled out the ends of the coil, ran about all over the place and caramelised to a unattractive black crust! (I now make a big fuss of folding the ends over and sealing the jammy goodness in).

Third attempt. When you use ‘Google translate’ on the Spanish web pages for this recipe, it says you should keep it in a ‘locked cupboard’ to rise! Well, my ‘locked cupboard’ was too hot. I killed the yeast, and ended up with a crunchy, jam-filled drain-pipe.

At the point, I ran out of pumpkin jam, and gave up trying to make ensaimadas.

However, now I have a fresh supply of pumpkin jam, (and the Halloween pumpkin head), and I’m ready to try again!

Pumpkin head

Maori-inspired pumpkin head

Dough is now ready for manipulation…. I’ll keep you posted.

Bottling battles

‘Why do your bottles have too much airspace at the top?’ says hubby.

‘I don’t know. It doesn’t seem to matter,’ say I.

‘Why don’t you process them in the pressure cooker, then open them up and add some more liquid?’ says hubby.

‘Because that’s NOT how preserving is supposed to be done!’ snap I. ‘You don’t understand the preserving process! You’re supposed to seal it, then sterilize it all thoroughly by heating it, then let it cool, SEALED, so no contaminants can get in.’ Grump grump.

Sometime later…

‘You did WHAT?!’ shouts hubby, with some alarm.

‘I filled the bottles right up, then put the lids on tightly so none of the juice would come out during processing, and you wouldn’t be able to complain that my bottles weren’t full enough.’

‘Don’t you understand the heating process? Things get BIGGER! You’ve probably cracked all your bottles because the pressure would build up too high inside them,’ grumps hubby.

‘No – I heated the bottles, lids and all the contents, so everything was as big as it was ever going to get,’ I replied, with a somewhat wavering conviction.

Sometime later – I slipped the top off the pressure cooker, with trepidation.

Yeah! I was right! All is well. Everything has to be really hot before you start processing with the pressure cooker, and I’m now working my way through bottling the huge sack of pears we picked from our dinky little pear tree.

Bottled pears and cook books

Bottled pears and a couple of my preserving 'bibles' - 'Jams, Preserves and Chutneys' by Marguerite Patten, and The River Cottage Handbook, 'Preserves' by Pam Corbin.

Potatoes!

There’s nothing like digging up a good crop of potatoes. How does planting just one seed potato create a dozen or more of the plump little rascals? They make such a satisfying thump as they go into the bucket.

Digging potatoes

Digging potatoes - you never know how many you are going to get, or what size. It adds to the magic.

In the kitchen, home-grown potatoes are so well behaved. They fluff up to make beautiful, smooth mash. Their soft edges rough up evenly to make super crisp, golden roasties. I even pushed some through my ‘spiralizer’ and made potato noodles to add to a duck soup. They held together astonishingly well.

Even the best supermarket potatoes just don’t perform as well. Being grown and stored in slightly different conditions means that the individual potatoes don’t respond evenly to cooking. Hence it’s no surprise to get lumpy mash and roast potatoes where some are burned before others are barely cooked.

This is before we even start to consider the taste. Truth is, home-grown potatoes actually have a taste, whereas bought ones tend not to.

This year we have a fantastic crop. We’ve done some blind tasting and arrived at the conclusion that:

Picasso – best for baking. They have beautiful skin that crisps up like flaky pastry and creamy flesh that pulls the butter right into its heart.

Red Cara – very floury, and great for mash. It’s a great ‘gluey’ potato and sticks together for dishes like potato pancakes, or my ‘Burger in a potato crust’ recipe. Heavy cropping.

Valor – reliable and even sized. Excellent for all culinary uses.

Trouble is, what to do with them? Potatoes seem to scream out for lashings of cream, cheese and butter. Not in our house, unfortunately, because hubby is lactose intolerant. I’ve had to be inventive to come up with some ways to add interest to the bounteous crop. I’ve found some!

Potato Bread. This was an agreeable surprise. I thought the result would be really heavy, but it’s not too bad. It’s quite chewy and supposed to store for up to a week, but we haven’t managed to make one last for more than a couple of days. Must be tasty, then. It’s easy, involving substituting approximately one third of the flour with plain mashed potatoes. It titillates my tightwad tendencies by allowing me to get four loaves out of my 70p bag of Morrison’s bread flour instead of just three. Wow – a loaf for less than 30p. Can’t be bad.

Potato bread

Chewy and tasty - somewhere between ciabatta and an English crumpet.

Indian food has a wealth of ways for using potatoes with splendid results.

Potato parathas. These are fascinating and incredibly easy. A blob of spicy mashed potato is placed on a disc of thin flour dough, gathered up into a dumpling shape, then carefully rolled out into a pancake. It should be fried, but I paint them with a little oil (to make them less fattening! Yeah – right!) and cook them in the oven until they are puffed and golden.

I make samosas and saag aloo, too. I make my own thin pastry for the samosas, which hubby always complains about and says I should use bought filo. My home-made ‘filo’ is about a quarter of the price, so he’ll have to put up with it being twice as thick.

The Red Cara seem particularly gooey and floury, and respond well to being modelled up into a potato crust. I use the finest possible setting on my mandolin to make almost transparent slices to stick around a greaseproof lined chef’s ring. ‘Burger in a crust’ is new invention of mine that I’m particularly tickled with right now! I’ve filled it with seasoned raw beef mince, and cooked it slowly, wrapped in greaseproof (or ‘en cartouche’, eh?). Don’t you just love those dishes that cook in their own juices? Cornish pastie, pork pie… This one’s the same. Right at the end, whip off the paper and crisp up the crust. So far I’ve cooked it with a hidden nugget of onion marmalade at it’s heart (cheese would be good, too). I’m going to experiment with minty lamb mince with a blob of redcurrant jelly in the centre, and perhaps a pork, apple and black pudding medley. I’ll keep you posted…