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.

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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

Vermouth

French Dry Vermouth
A popular French ‘dry’ Vermouth great with fish and shellfish

The vermouth that we now drink and cook with now was first produced in the 18th century in Italy. It was originally used as a treatment for stomach disorders, then became popular aperitif in the cafes of Turin. It then became a key ingredient in cocktails such as the Negroni, the Manhattan and perhaps most famously the Martini. There two main types are sweet and dry vermouth which are made from a base wine flavoured with amongst other ingredients cloves, cinnamon, citrus peel, cardamom, chamomile, coriander, hyssop, juniper, and ginger, fortified with a spirit, such as grape brandy and sweetened with cane sugar. The exact recipe for each vermouth is kept secret by the individual manufacturers.

Vermouth can be substituted for white wine in cooking but because of the aromatic flavours it can overpower more delicate ingredients. It is most often used in recipes for oysters, scallops, and fish, but also compliments fennel, pork, and chicken. Perhaps the most famous dish with vermouth is Sole Veronique, poached fillets of sole in a vermouth cream sauce garnished with skinned, deseeded green grapes.

Cooking with Vermouth

Coquilles St. Jacques

Chilled Salmon, Cucumber, and Dill Soup

Seafood Tarts

Jersey Mussel, Smoked Haddock, and Prawn Chowder

Mussels

Mussels have been part of our diet for hundreds if not thousands of years, there are well over a dozen edible species and they are eaten around the world. The peak season of the Blue or European mussel is October to March and nearly all UK mussels are now sustainably farmed. Mussels are high protein and a good source of Zinc and Vitamin B12. Mussels can be smoked, boiled, steamed, roasted, barbecued, battered or fried in butter or vegetable oil. Allow 500 gr to 750 gr of mussels per person for a generous portion. To prepare your mussels first rinse them with plenty of cold running water and throw away any mussels with cracked or broken shells. Give any open mussels a quick squeeze, if they do not close immediately, throw away as well as they are dead and not to be eaten and may be poisonous. Then using a small knife scrape the shell to remove any barnacles or dirt and pull out any beards by tugging towards the hinge of the mussel shell. If you intend to cook later that day, store in a plastic container in the bottom of your refrigerator covered with a damp tea towel.

Mussels

In Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, mussels are steamed with white wine, garlic, and herbs and eaten with French Fries the classical ‘ moules-frites ’. In Spain, they are popular cooked in a simmer manner with added lemon, in soups and pickled in oil and vinegar flavoured with bay leaves, peppercorns, and paprika. Mussels are eaten in Chowder in New Zealand and America and in Cantonese cuisine in a spicy black bean broth. Mussels can be added to fish pies, seafood stews, and pasta dishes as well as being steamed.

For more information on sustainable seafood visit the Marine Stewardship Council.

Cooking with Mussels

Mussels with Beer and Chorizo

Paella de marisco

Mouclade

Seafood Tarts

Classic Moules Mariniere

Jersey Mussel, Smoked Haddock, and Prawn Chowder

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Puff pastry can be used to make many different savoury hors d’oeuvre or bite sized appetisers. The most famous of these being little-stuffed Vol-au-vent cases topped with a little lid or delicate Crolines, small lattice topped parcels. My recipe today is how to make the third, great little tartlet case that can also be made slightly larger and used as a savoury starter, light lunch or filled with whipped cream and fruit as a simple, elegant dessert.

Seafood Tart

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Why not try your finished Feuillettes filled with roasted Provençal vegetables topped with whipped Goat’s cheese and a little rocket dressed with sea salt and Balsamic, creamy garlic mushrooms with brandy, thyme and nutmeg or a fabulous seafood medley as well as fruit purées and Confectioner’s custard or glazed poached peach halves and raspberries if you have a sweeter palate.

Puff pastry ( ready made or homemade )
Egg wash

Preheat your oven to 400F / 200C / Gas Mark 6. Roll out your pastry on a lightly floured work surface.

Puff Pastry 2

Cut into squares 4 by 4 inches for a large case 1 1/2 inch squared for smaller bite-size tarts.

Puff Pastry 3

Carefully cut two L – shaped into the pastry like the picture above. Make sure to you leave to small pieces of uncut pastry to hold the edges together.

Puff Pastry 4

Egg wash the pastry square the fold over the cut pastry strips.

Puff Pastry 5

Egg wash the tart case again including the sides of the pastry. Dock or prick the center of the case with the tines of a fork, this will prevent the center rising. Transfer to a non -stick baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to relax the pastry. This will help prevent the pastry from shrinking.

Puff Pastry 6

Place in your heated oven and bake for between 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of your feuilette, until crisp and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and cool. You can make your cases ahead of you needing them and store in an airtight container.