Thursday, 29 December 2011


Our Christmas canapes aim for something more delicate than the traditional scotch egg, more Jonathan Ames than James M Cain, but hard-boiled nonetheless.  We wrap quails' eggs in black pudding, the dark colouring extended by black, waxy whole-rye breadcrumbs. They sit equally comfortably with pints of Guinness or flutes of champagne. 

It's new ways in modern times for the scotch egg: a (pickled) Manchester egg receives rave reviews (and soaring sales to match); competitions search for the best "new" scotch egg; one of the stars of the 2011 Masterchef Professionals' Final is a fish-based scotch egg. Responding to a challenge to national honour in far flung fields, Tom and Jen select the scotch egg to represent the best of UK food, as blogged by slightly startled Seoul foodies

1   Hardboil 12 quails' eggs (about 6 minutes); cool and peel.
2   Mix together 200g black pudding, 75g cooking chorizo and 75g sausage meat.
3   Break off a lump of black pudding mix slightly larger than a golf ball, and flatten it out. Place a peeled quail's egg in the middle, wrapping the mixture round to create a smooth, unbroken surface. Repeat for each egg,
4   Put plain white flour for dredging in a flat bowl.
5   Beat a whole (hen's) egg in another flat bowl. 
6   Blend 75g of waxy whole-rye bread (Vollkombrot) with 25 g of white bread (ideally sourdough) to create breadcrumbs. Place in yet another flat bowl.
7   Arrange the bowls in a convenient row for dredging and rolling.
8   Dredge the first black pudding ball in flour, then coat in egg and breadcrumbs.  Put to one side and then repeat.
9   Deep fry the breadcrumbed balls in batches of three or four for approximately 4 minutes a batch. Drain on kitchen towel.

The scotch eggs have a better texture if they are left to cool briefly and then baked in a hot oven for 10 minutes.

They are especially good with home-made hot chilli sauce.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


The Love The Garden blog has recently launched its Christmas Competition, a celebration of the carrot; the competition is to be judged by Niamh Shields of Eat Like a Girl fame.  Click on the LtG link above for more details.

In the frosty gloom of an English winter, carrots are often heaped unceremoniously in dull-brown piles on market stalls and greengrocers' shelves, almost unnoticeable in their muddy mediocrity. The mundane, meat-and-two-veg image of the carrot belies its exotic colour and sweetness, qualities recognised and treasured more perhaps in the middle east and around the Mediterranean than here.   
Scrubbed up, though, this everyday root vegetable vegetable can be transformed into a orange-blossom scented, softly chewy sweetmeat which glows with colour and flavour.  
And it only takes about 30 minutes.

30g       creamed coconut
125g     unsalted butter
150g     semolina
50g       ground almonds
300g     carrots, ground to coarse sand texture
250ml   water
125g     sugar
2tsp      orange blossom water
1tsp      all spice
1tbs      honey
50g       pistachios, crushed to small chunks
             zest of one orange
            dry roast pistachios, crushed.
Melt butter and coconut, then add semolina; stir and then cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, bring water to boil in a separate pan, and then add sugar and orange blossom water; continue to heat until sugar melts.
To the semolina, add the ground almonds and ground carrots, and stir together. Add the all spice, honey and pistachios, and stir together.
Pour the water/sugar mixture over the semolina mixture and stir vigorously.  Continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 4 or 5 minutes, by which time the halva should be coming together and leaving the sides of the pan clean.
Turn out into a lightly buttered dish and leave to cool. Then refrigerate until firm. Cut into small squares to serve.

Serve by itself, with strong coffee.
Or serve with cream or yoghurt into which orange zest has been mixed; scatter roasted, crushed pistachios on top. And sip a glass of mint tea.