Granola

Granola is an increasingly popular breakfast cereal made from baked oats with honey and sugar.  Manufactured Granola can be quite expensive and yet very easy to make at home. It is delicious mixed with dried fruits and nuts such as flaked almonds, apricots, raisins and sultanas or eaten with creamy, natural yoghurt, sliced banana and sprinkled with Blueberries.

Homemade Crunchy Granola
Homemade Crunchy Granola

Granola was invented and trademarked in America by a contemporary of John Harvey Kellogg as a baked breakfast cereal at a similar time to muesli, which is also made from oats although neither sweetened or cooked. With the addition of nuts and dried fruits Granola is often marketed as a ‘healthy option’ however it does contain a lot of sugar. Granola or pressed Granola bars ( similar to Flapjack ) are a good source of energy and is often carried by long-distance hikers. Granola can also be used in making and garnishing desserts.

Breakfast Granola
Granola with Yoghurt, Bananas, and Blueberries

Homemade Crunchy Granola

300 gr Rolled Oats

120 gr Honey

60 ml Vegetable Oil

3 tablespoons packed light Brown Sugar

1 teaspoon Natural Vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground Cinnamon

¼ teaspoon Salt

Extras

100 gr dried fruit; Raisins, Sultanas, small diced dried Apricots, freeze dried Strawberries

50 gr toasted flaked Almond Nuts or flaked Coconut

Heat the oven to 300°F / 150 C / Gas mark 2. Place the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine and set aside. Place the honey, oil, and vanilla into a jug and mix thoroughly. Pour over the oat mixture and mix until the oats are thoroughly coated. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a rimmed baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for fifteen minutes, then stir, breaking up any large clusters and continue baking until the granola is a very light golden brown, for between five and ten more minutes.

 

Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the granola to room temperature, stirring occasionally. It will harden as it cools. You can add the dried fruit and nuts or seeds to the Granola when it is thoroughly cooled down and toss to combine together. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Tomato concassé

Tomato concassé is the flesh from fresh tomatoes that have been peeled, de-seeded and chopped into a dice. It is a staple of many professional kitchens used in sauces, omelettes, with olive oil, garlic, and basil as a topping for bruschetta and when added to Béarnaise sauce to make Choron sauce, served with fish and seafood. We remove tomato seeds and skin from Tomato concassé as in large quantities they can be tough, do not soften during cooking and leave a bitter flavour. If you can get hold of a moderate amount of ice it is very useful when cooling off the blanched tomatoes. Use fully ripe but firm tomatoes for the best results. The process may seem to be quite an effort but the end results for Tomato concassé are very pleasing and worthwhile.

To make tomato concassé

Bring a large pot of water, deep enough to generously cover your tomatoes, to a rolling boil.Take each tomato and using the tip of a small sharp knife or paring knife ( see picture ) remove the pith or tough part of the tomato where the stem used to be cutting out a circular hole.

Turn the tomato over and on the other end mark a small cross in the skin with the knife.

When all your tomatoes are prepared, place a four or five at a time into the pan the boiling water. As soon as the water returns to a boil cook for one-minute longer and then remove them using a slotted spoon or spider.

Immediately plunge the blanched tomatoes into a large bowl of very cold water to arrest the cooking process. If you have ice, use iced water. The cooking process depends on the size of tomatoes you are using, small tomatoes may only require thirty seconds simmering. A good rule of thumb is if you see the tomato skin beginning to peel off then take out and cool.

The next step will take a little practice. Drain the blanched tomatoes then using the sharp knife again gentle tease and peel off the skin. Start by slowly sliding the tip of the knife under the cross you made in the skin earlier and work down. When peeled quarter the tomatoes and remove the seed with a small spoon or the back of the knife. Chop the quartered tomatoes into large or small dice as required.

Amuse-bouche

An amuse-bouche or more correctly in France an amuse-gueule is literally translated as “mouth amuser”. They became popular in restaurants in the nineteen eighties as a showcase of the chef’s skills. Normally a small intensely flavoured dish presented to all diners before their ordered dishes. In high-end classic restaurants such as those with Michelin, stars amuse-bouche are now an integral part of the meal.

Gazpacho Shots

At home, an amuse-bouche or amuse-gueule does not have to be an elaborate creation it can be some delicious marinated Spanish olives, a tasty, freshly made dip with breadsticks or a Gazpacho Shot.

Espagnole

Classic Espagnole or Brown sauce is a dark, flour-based sauce with a strong taste and is now replaced in many recipes by a well-reduced beef or roast veal bone stock, traditionally it was a Master Sauce serving as the starting point for many derivative sauces, of which there are hundreds in the French repertoire. As Espagnole is the French word for Spanish it was long thought that the sauce was a creation of a chef to one of the two countries royal courts following a diplomatic marriage between the French and Spanish thrones, similarly, Espagnole was a rich marriage of Spanish tomatoes to a traditional French brown meat sauce. However, according to Alan Davidson, in The Oxford Companion to Food, “The name has nothing to do with Spain, any more than the counterpart term allemande has anything to do with Germany. It is generally believed that the terms were chosen because in French eyes Germans are blond and Spaniards are brown.”

Espangole is made from a dark roux, a Mirepoix of root vegetables and tomatoes, veal or beef stock and aromatics. The sauce is very gently simmered over a low heat and skimmed regularly. Espangole was one of the five mother sauces of the French cuisine of Escoffier and was traditionally used to make Demi-glace which is used in turn to make hundreds of secondary sauces. In the modern kitchen, these sauces are made using a reduced stock and a list can be found under the Demi-glace entry.

A Classic Espangole Recipe

As Espangole was a staple of the large classical kitchen the ingredient list includes parsley stems and mushroom trimmings left over from the preparation of garnishes, these are optional or simply replace with a couple of sprigs of parsley and a few mushrooms.

50 gr Butter or Lard

50 gr Fat Bacon

100 gr Plain Flour

2 large Carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large Onion, peeled and chopped

2 sticks of Celery, washed and chopped

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 Pigs Trotter

500 gr Shin of beef, with the bone

1 generous sprig of fresh Thyme

1 sprig Rosemary

2 Bay Leaves

A small handful of Parsley stems

A small handful of mushroom peelings and stems

6 Black Peppercorns

1 1/2 ltrs of Beef or roasted Veal Stock

440 gr  tin chopped Tomatoes

150 ml quality Red Wine


Roast the trotter and beef shin in a very hot oven for twenty minutes until brown. In a very large, heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and fry the bacon, add the mirepoix of root vegetables and cook slowly. Brown the vegetables so the natural sugars caramelise to add flavour and colour to the sauce. Add the flour and cook for at least another five minutes to develop the colour.

Slowly add a quarter of the stock stirring all the time then add the remaining stock, trotter, beef shin and the rest of the ingredients. Bring up to the gentlest of simmers and cook for at least three hours. Skim regularly to remove any impurities and excess fat from the sauce which if let to boil into the sauce will result in a cloudy finish. Remove from heat, allow to cool and pass through a chinois or fine sieve.

Ghee

Ghee is a south Asian pure butterfat used for frying and flavouring similar to clarified butter. The production of ghee results in the elimination of any milk solids which prevents the ghee from oxidising, consequently ghee has a long shelf life and does not require refrigeration. Ghee is commonly used in Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese and Pakistani cooking. In Indian cookery, ghee is used in the preparation of dishes such as biryanis, daals, parathas and curries resulting in a rich flavour and texture and is brushed on roasting Naan breads. The word ghee comes from Sanskrit.
Commercially prepared ghee is made by first melting the butter, as it does the milk solids and buttermilk form a white froth on top. This is removed and the butterfat is then simmered, stirring occasionally, as it is cooked on low heat it turns a dark golden colour. Any remaining residue settles at the bottom and the ghee, which is now clear, aromatic and golden is ready to be filtered. The ghee solidifies as it cools. The texture, colour, and taste of ghee is altered by the length of the cooking process and from the milk which made the butter.
Ghee is an ideal medium for deep fat frying because the smoke point (where it begins to break down) is 250 °C / 482 °F, which is well above typical cooking temperatures for most foods around 200 °C / 392 °F and above that of most vegetable oils. Several other cuisines produce similar products to Ghee. In North Africa, the Berber tribes add spices and age their refined butter. In other parts of Africa purified butterfat is used for frying and in Germany Schnitzels are traditionally fried in Butterschmalz a type of clarified butter.

Melba Toast

Melba toast is completely dry, crisp, thinly sliced, toasted bread and most often served with soup or pâté. History has it that the name was given to the toast by the world’s most famous hotel manager César Ritz. Melba toast was created by his equally famous chef Auguste Escoffier for the Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, around 1897. During a stay in London, the singer was taken ill and when she requested something light to eat Escoffier delivered Melba toast.

Melba Toast

Melba toast is available commercially but is not difficult to make and a great way to use up excess sliced bread and you will find the results much better. It can be made up to a couple of days before you need it and stored it in an airtight container, then crisp it up for a short time in the oven.

Melba Toast

Sliced white or brown bread as required

Preheat the grill to high and toast the bread lightly on both sides. Cut off the crusts, then holding the toast flat, slide the knife between the toasted edges to split the bread.

Slicing Toast

Place the toast cut side down onto a food preparation board and gently rub it over the board surface. This removes any loose crumbs and snags of dough which will burn when you toast the underside and produces a professional finish.

Melba Toast Tray

Place on a baking tray untoasted sides uppermost, then toast under a moderate grill until golden and the edges curl.

When required crisp for a short time in the oven at 170 °C / 325 °F / Gas 3 before serving.

Mirepoix

Mirepoix, a trio of aromatic vegetables, became popular in 19thcentury French cooking and is named, in the fashion of so many French culinary terms, after a Duke who was a regarded as a pretty incompetent Field Marshall and Ambassador, and who owed much to Louis XV affections towards his wife. Mirepoix is a small, fine dice normally of onions, carrots, and celery roughly in the proportions 2:1:1. It is the base flavour of many classic sauces and stocks and slow-cooked casseroles and stews. Mirepoix can vary from recipe to recipe and region to region and include garlic, leeks, mushroom stalks and tomatoes.

Mirepoix

Mirepoix au gras has the addition of finely diced ham or streaky bacon. Similar base vegetable mixes are to be found in German cooking called suppengrün or soup greens. There is also the holy trinity of Creole cooking; onions, green bell peppers and celery and soffritto an Italian soup and sauce base of vegetables, garlic and parsley stewed in olive oil.

Matignon is traditionally a finer dice of aromatic vegetables including onions, carrots, celery, and leeks which are sautéed in butter and flavoured with a pinch of thyme and perhaps some crushed garlic. It is usually finished with salt, sugar if required and a splash of Madeira wine. The result can be used as a stuffing or a base to present poultry and meat on.

Wok hei

Cast Iron Wok
A cast iron seasoned Wok

Wok hei, means ‘the breath of the wok,’ it is the smoky flavours, aroma and texture the dish picks up whilst being stir-fried in a hot wok. It is particularly prevalent in Cantonese cooking. To impart wok hei the traditional way, the food is cooked in a seasoned traditional cast iron wok over a very high flame while being stirred and tossed quickly. The heat needs to be extremely high to stop the food being boiling in its own juices and being stewed. When you see professional Chinese chefs cooking over gas stoves or an open flame, they toss the food at an angle allowing for the splattering of fine oil particles to catch the flame into the wok adding more Wok hei.

Cloves

“Nutmeg must be able to smell the sea but cloves must see it”

Cloves are a spice that come from the flower buds of a tree originally from Indonesia and are a common ingredient in savoury and sweet recipes in Asian, African and Middle Eastern cuisines. The unopened flower buds are harvested twice a year and then they are dried in the sun. Cloves have a warm, pungent aroma which many people associate with Mulled Wine and Christmas with notes of camphor and pepper. Cloves have a strong, pungent, flavour, and too many can be overpowering. Cloves can sometimes leave a numbing feeling in the mouth due to the active ingredient eugenol and are why people use oil of cloves if they have a toothache.

Whole dried cloves
Whole Cloves

Cloves were only grown in Indonesia until the eighteenth century when Frenchman, Pierre Poivre, carried seedlings to Mauritius where the seedlings flourished.  The plants were then introduced into the East African coast, which is now the largest producer of cloves. The saying “Nutmeg must be able to smell the sea but cloves must see it” is because cloves grow best on islands or near the sea. Cloves can be used either whole or ground in Chinese cooking, apple recipes, traditional baked ham, and pairs well other spices like allspice, bay, cardamom, cinnamon, chillies, fennel, ginger, and nutmeg. Cloves are one of the spices in Garam masala and Chinese five spice.

Star Anise

Whole Star Anise
Star Anise Pods

Star anise is instantly recognisable as the star-shaped spice which is used in many Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Indian dishes. The pods can be used whole, broken into pieces or ground down to a powder and are a key ingredient in Chinese Five Spice. Star anise has a delicious liquorice like aroma and a sweet aniseed flavour which is delicious with fish, chicken, pork and root vegetables. Star anise is often used in combination with other spices and aromatics such as chillies, cinnamon, coriander seeds, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass.

Star anise is the fruit of small, green magnolia trees which are native to South-west China and can bear fruit for 100 years or more. Star anise has been used throughout Chinese history for its culinary and medicinal properties and is still valued in cough syrups and to provide relief from flatulence. The Japanese used to burn the aromatic bark of the tree for incense. Star anise started being used in Europe from the seventeenth century to flavour syrups, cordials and preserves and is still used in western countries today to flavour drinks, and confectionery.

Tarragon Vinegar

A bottle of Tarragon Vinegar
A bottle of Homemade Tarragon Vinegar

Tarragon Vinegar is a great way to add extra flavour to dishes such as steak with Bearnaise sauce and tarragon mayonnaise.

Tarragon Vinegar

500 ml good quality White Wine Vinegar

A small bunch of fresh Tarragon

Additional fresh Tarragon sprigs, optional

Thoroughly wash the tarragon and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place in a suitably sized sterilized jar and using the back of a wooden spoon, gently bruise the tarragon leaves and stems. Heat the vinegar to just under the boil and pour into the jar. Leave to cool for a few minutes then seal the jar. Store in a cool dark place for at least two weeks to allow the flavours to develop. Strain the vinegar through some fine muslin and transfer to a suitable sterilised bottle and add a further couple of washed tarragon sprigs. Seal and store for up to six months.

Mignonette

Mignonette is a traditional accompaniment to chilled, raw oysters containing a mix of pepper, shallots, and vinegar the name is thought to come from a traditional spice mix of peppercorns, cloves, and other spices.

Chilled Oysters Mignonette
Traditional Oysters Mignonette

 

Mignonette

75 ml quality White Wine Vinegar or Champagne Vinegar

1 medium Shallot, peeled and very, very finely diced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Stir together all ingredients and allow the flavours to infuse for thirty minutes before serving.

If you like things a little fierier, add one teaspoon of Sriracha sauce.

Sriracha

Thai Sriracha Sauce
Sriracha Hot Sauce

Sriracha is a hot chilli-based condiment from Thailand used predominantly in Thai and Vietnamese cooking and used in soups, sauces and as a dip for seafood and spring rolls. It is made from red chillies, garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar. As its popularity has spread the sauce is now used to flavour mayonnaise served with seafood and burgers, as a glaze for grilled bacon and in cocktails. In America, the sauce is commonly known as Rooster sauce from the logo on the most predominant brand available.

Brine

Putting meat into a salt-water solution or brine is an age-old method of preserving and flavouring food. Feta and halloumi cheeses are both aged in brine for flavour, and pork is cured in brine to make bacon and ham where the salt inhibits bacterial spoiling and flavours the meat. Brining is increasingly popular with professional chefs to help chicken, other poultry and pork stay juicy and moist during cooking, it increases the yield of joints so saves money. Brine is used a lot in American home cooking especially preparing meat for barbecuing and grilling. There are slight risks in home curing but using the brine to add flavour and moisture and not preserve the meat is perfectly safe.

Bacon Rashers
Streaky Bacon Slices

Using a brine is simple, economical and tasty. Just follow the steps below and remember the following, you don’t have to salt brined meat before cooking. Once brined, pork and chicken cooks faster so be careful and use a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat, check the temperature and do not overcook. Brining any meat will add a significant amount of liquid to it before cooking, you can actually increase the total weight of a cut of pork by 15% or more.Therefore the amount of water that remains in a piece of meat during cooking can increase greatly and the resulting cuts and joints will be juicier and tenderer.

The Science Bit

The process by which additional moisture, salt ( and flavourings ) are added to the meat is called osmosis.Osmosis happens under laboratory conditions when water flows from a lower concentration of a solution to a higher concentration through a semipermeable membrane. In your piece of meat, this is the membrane that surrounds the individual pork or chicken cells. When the meat is placed in a brine solution, the fluids in each meat cell are less concentrated than the salt water in the brining solution. Water flows out of the cells in the meat and salt is absorbed. The salt then dissolves some of the fiber proteins, and the meat cell fluids become more concentrated. Water is now absorbed back into the cell. Brining adds salt and water to the cells so that when the meat is cooked and water is squeezed out, there is still water left in the cells because more water was added before the cooking process.

Preparing the Brine

You can use sea salt and some people believe the mineral content is beneficial to the end flavour, it is however expensive. Americans use Kosher salt which is also used in manufacturing and commercial meat processing and has a large flat crystal shape. For our basic brine recipe table salt, preferable without iodine, is absolutely fine. We want to achieve a five percent solution, sea water, by comparison, is around 3.5% and to do this we need to add 50g of salt per litre of water. The solution should be salty to the taste but not thick with salt. If you follow this ratio you have an ideal brine for pork and chicken, as you experiment you can find further information on different strengths of brine to use but be careful, too much salt or leaving the meat in the brine for too long will leave you with salty meat.

Dissolve the salt thoroughly in potable freshly boiling hot water and leave to totally cool. For the amount of brine, you will need, consider the size of the container you are going to use and the size of the meat you want to brine. A brine solution should be enough to completely submerge the meat you want to brine. For larger quantities of brine dissolve the salt in a third of the water then when cool add it to the remaining amount of cold water.

You can add a variety of flavors such as herbs and spices, sugars, beers, wines, fruit, and vegetables. Experiment with flavour combinations they are almost infinite. The most basic are sugars, some sweetness tends to offset a saltiness the brine might otherwise impart to the meat and is a popular flavouring, think of Black Forest hams and sticky barbecue ribs. Add approximately 20g per litre of brine to give a sweet base flavour and to encourage browning during cooking. You can use cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses and maple syrup as sweeteners.

Additional flavours should not overpower the meat but add subtle notes to the cooked result. Vegetables such as onions, celery, carrots, and garlic should be chopped to increase the amount of surface area of the vegetables in use in the brine solution. You can replace some of the water with apple juice, cider, orange juice, beer, wine, rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and tea. Both pork and chicken are ideal partners with Oriental flavorings such as Mirin or Japanese rice wine and soy sauce, use a little less salt if you substitute a large amount of soy sauce as it is quite a salty condiment. Finally consider ginger, fresh herbs, juniper berries, cloves, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, mustard seed, coriander seed, star anise, hot pepper flakes or Sichuan peppercorns.

How to Brine

When your prepared brine is cold you can brine your pork or chicken. This needs to be done in an inert glass, stainless steel or plastic container. You can also purchase heavy duty bags specifically for the purpose, including turkey size from American online food equipment suppliers. Make sure the container is thoroughly cleaned with very hot soapy water before use. Fill with your brine solution, immerse your meat and weigh it down with a clean heavy plate to make sure no chicken or pork is exposed to the air and cover the container. Place in the bottom of your refrigerator. Refrigeration is absolutely required during brining. The meat and brine solution must be kept below 40 degrees F. at all times. Warning a container large enough to hold a whole turkey might be too big for your fridge and you may have to ask a friendly butcher to brine it for you.

When it comes to the amount of time you want to brine something it is more important not to brine too long than not long enough. While some cuts of meat can use days in a brine, even a relatively small amount of time can be helpful. The size, cut and grain will also affect the time required for immersion.

  • Pork Chops (1 inch to 1½ inch thick) 12 to 24 hours

  • Whole Pork Loin 2 to 4 days

  • Whole Pork Tenderloin 6 to 12 hours

  • Whole Chicken ( 4 pounds ) 4 to 12 hours

  • Chicken Pieces ( thighs and drumsticks ) 1 to 2 hours

  • Whole Turkey ( 12 pounds ) 1 to 2 days

Cooking the Meat

Remove the chicken or pork from the brine and dispose of the used brine. Rinse twice after removing it from the solution and pat dry on kitchen paper. If you are not ready to cook at the end of the brining time, remove from brine, rinse the meat and refrigerate until ready to use. Do not salt brined meat before cooking. Cook according to your favorite recipe adjusting the cooking time as the meat may cook a little quicker and brown faster if you use a sweetened brine.

Cooked crispy Bacon
Cooked Streak Bacon